The Punter's De-Brief: Swafford hangs on and Catlin wins again

Golfer John Catlin
John Catlin with the Irish Open trophy

Hudson Swafford has won his second PGA Tour title, three years after his first, and John Catlin has claimed his second European Tour title in three weeks. Steve Rawlings looks back at their victories here...

"As we head back up to the Renaissance Club for the Scottish Open this week, it may pay to give extra attention to those that have won already over the summer."

After an eight-under-par 64 in round three, Adam Long entered the final round of the Corales Puntacana R & C Championship trading at odds-on with a one-stroke lead but he was soon struggling on Sunday, playing his first seven holes in two-over-par.

After Long had dipped to a low of 5/61.84, last year's runner-up Mackenzie Hughes, who had been well-fancied before the off, hit 7/42.74, when he eagled the par five fourth. But it was the halfway leader, Hudson Swafford, who soon assumed command.

Having been matched at a high of 369/1370.0 before the off, Swafford, who was generally a 299/1300.0 chance pre-tournament, was matched at a low of 1/111.09 after he'd played his first eight holes in five-under-par and it looked like he was just going to coast home when he led by four but it was far from plain sailing in the end.

Having missed a great chance to birdie the 11th, Swafford double-bogeyed the 13th and bogeyed the 15th. All of a sudden, he was tied with Hughes and the Canadian hit a low of 4/51.8 but he failed to capitalise - parring 15, 16 and 17 before bogeying the last.

Having begun the day trailing by six and trading at around 79/180.0, pre-event 539/1540.0 chance, Tyler McCumber, birdied the last to tie the lead and he was matched at a low of 9/52.8. But having looked on the ropes, Swafford responded brilliantly, producing this birdie at the tough par three 17th before parring the last to win by one.

Having led through rounds one, two and three of the Irish Open, pre-event 39/140.0 chance, Aaron Rai, who was matched at a high of 49/150.0 before the off, set the tone for the day when he opened up his fourth round with a bogey at the first.

The majority of his nearest challengers failed to put any heat on but the recent Andalucía Masters winner, John Catlin, who begun the day trailing by four and trading at around 28/129.0, played his first ten holes in four-under-par to gradually move through the contenders and Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond struck the front when he birdied the 13th. A hole Catlin had bogeyed just minutes earlier.

Jazz, a pre-tournament 74/175.0 shot, was matched at a low of 10/111.9 as he walked to the par three 14th tee but odds-on backers were immediately in trouble when he hit an appalling tee shot that led to a double-bogey five.

Stuck on level par for the day, Rai couldn't find the requisite momentum on the back-nine and Catlin responded to his drop at 13 with birdies at 15 and 16 to take the lead. The American was matched at just 1/251.04 after he'd birdied the par five 18th to lead by two but long odds-on backers were given something of a scare when Rai birdied 17 and found the fairway on 18. A playoff looked the most likely outcome but he hit a poor second from the fairway that found an awful spot in the rough and he finished up making a bogey six instead of the birdie four required to force extra time.

This was Catlin's second win in three weeks and it moved him up to number 84 in the Official World Rankings. He was 230th at the start of September.

My Bets

John Catlin was one of two pre-event picks in Ireland and although I layed him back in-running a few times on Sunday, at odds ranging from 4/15.1 to 1/51.2, it was still a great result.

I thought he was a very decent price at the beginning of the week at 64/165.0 but he didn't shorten up before the off and I even had a small top-up on Wednesday at 69/170.0 so there was plenty of headroom to trade for a profit, regardless of whether he won or not.

I'd set myself an initial loose lay back target of around 4/15.0 so I was extremely frustrated on Saturday when he made back-to-back bogeys at eight and nine, having hit the front and hit a low of 9/25.4, but it all worked out well in the end.

The closest I came to a pre-event winner in the Dominican Republic was with 109/1110.0 pick, James Hahn, who eventually finished tied for sixth having hit a low of 15/28.4 when he birdied four in-a-row early on in round three but that finished up being a decent result too with halfway fancy, Swafford, who was backed at 15/28.4, going on to win.

Following Catlin's win and a few celebratory drinks, I was too blasé with my Swafford wager and I didn't lay anything back. A move that very nearly proved costly given how low he traded.

What Have We Learned This Week?

Catlin is the second player to win his first and second European Tour titles since the restart and George Coetzee won the Portugal Masters a week after winning on the Sunshine Tour in his hometown of Pretoria. In what are such uncertain times, a recent success seems to be even more important that it usually is and Catlin spoke afterwards about how important his Spanish success had been.

"You never know if you're going to win or not and to get that monkey off my back at Valderrama really freed me up today to know that I can look myself in the mirror and tell myself honestly that I've been here before and I can do it again."

As we head back up to the Renaissance Club for the Scottish Open this week, it may pay to give extra attention to those that have won already over the summer.

Over in the Dominican Republic, Swafford became the fourth winner in five years of the Corales Puntacana R & C Championship to be in his 30s. Since it was elevated to a PGA Tour event three years ago, he follows a pair of 79/180.0 winners so it's starting to look like an outsider's event but the clues were there.

Swafford has three top-tens at the Sony Open so that remains a great angle in and we may also need to consider the Desert Classic for clues now too given Swafford and the third round leader, Long, have both won that particular birdie-fest but it's never going to be easy to spot the winner before the off when it appears to all come down to putting.

Swafford didn't make a single three-putt all week long and for the third year running, it all boiled down to how many birdies and how many putts were made and that's never easy to predict before the off.

The PGA Tour returns to the United States this week with the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi and I'll be back later today or tomorrow with my previews for that one and for the aforementioned Scottish Open.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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