Steve looks back on an interesting week's golf trading in Ireland and West Virginia where there were wins for Russell Knox and Kevin Na. Read our man's customary look back at all the action here...
“I had hoped that in-play pick, Joakim Lagergren, might have come through to win if Van Rooyen flopped but he played even worse than the South African, fading to finish tied for 12th. It wasn’t a good result by any means but things were set to get even worse.”
It was impossible not to feel sympathy for New Zealander, Ryan Fox, and his backers yesterday afternoon. Looking for his first win on the European Tour, Fox was matched at just 1.111/9 when he led by a stroke with one hole to play and with the only conceivable danger, Russell Knox, playing in the group ahead it looked highly likely that a par on the 72nd hole would be sufficient but then Knox, who was Dave Tindall's each-way selection, went and did this...
Fox gave himself a chance to match Knox's birdie in regulation to take the title but he narrowly missed and we were in to extra time. Knox, who was generally a 27.026/1 chance before the off, was the odds-on favourite before the playoff began but the favourites flip-flopped after the two had driven. Fox hit a belting good tee-shot, miles down the fairway, whereas Knox's was much shorter, and bunker bound, but he got lucky. The ball ran through the bunker and the Scotsman hit a cracking second shot to almost the exact same place he'd been in two in regulation.
It still looked like advantage Fox as he hit a great approach shot to set up another very makeable birdie chance but unbelievably, Knox went and knocked the putt in again! Fox's attempt lipped out and that was that.
Over in the States, Dave's fancy, Kevin Na, putted like a man possessed to run away from the field in the Greenbrier Classic and win comfortably by five strokes. Na was generally a 65.064/1 chance on the exchange before the off but he was matched at a high of 280.0279/1 after a slow start on Thursday. Na birdied six of seven holes between the fourth and the tenth, holing putts from two, five, 11, 24, 33 and 43 feet. That'll usually work!
It was just his second victory in 15 years on the PGA Tour so he was understandably emotional afterwards and this interview after the victory is worth two minutes of anyone's time. It was a bad result for me personally but it's impossible to enjoy his humour and admire his tenacity. Well done Kevin and well done Dave!
"I've been close so many times. Failed so many times...and for some reason I felt like it was my day."? GOLFonCBS (@GOLFonCBS) July 8, 2018
An emotional moment for Kevin Na after winning his first @PGATOUR event since 2011. pic.twitter.com/L3UKtkQ8AL
Saturday was one of the nicest days I can remember. The sun shone yet again, England reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time in 28 years, and I spent the day and evening enjoying the whole experience with friends and family. Yesterday wasn't quite so nice.
As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I backed third round leader, Erik Van Rooyen, at 1.9720/21 but having been matched at a low of 1.42/5 early on in round four, he lost his rhythm badly and the writing was very much on the wall after he finished the front nine with bogeys at six, seven and nine. He tried to rally but it wasn't to be, and he finished up tied for fourth alongside my pre-event pick Jon Rahm.
I had hoped that in-play pick, Joakim Lagergren, might have come through to win if Van Rooyen flopped but he played even worse than the South African, fading to finish tied for 12th. It wasn't a good result by any means but things were set to get even worse...
I was quite happy with the state of my lay book with a round to go (detailed in the In-Play Blog) and when Na made his move I went about laying him further. He'd played in almost 400 PGA Tour events over the last 15 years before this week and he'd won just once, seven years ago. I'd seen him mess up multiple chances to win and I was more than happy to take him on. I layed him several times before putting the spade down when the deficit figure reached a shade over £700 and the fact that I didn't go any deeper is the only possible silver lining. It was pretty much a disaster and a miserable evening to end the weekend.
It was also the second Sunday in-a-row that I'd done my dough laying someone that had never convinced me in-contention, having had a poor result last week taking on Francesco Molinari.
Players To Follow
I backed Jon Rahm in Ireland at 8.615/2 and looking back, even though he's been beaten, that was a very fair price and he needs to be followed. This was his 50th worldwide start as a pro and it was his 20th top-five finish. He's won five times and even though he was a single-figure price I really don't think the market quite gave him the respect he deserves. He's a remarkable talent and he isn't going to stop winning. His strike rate in Europe is especially strong and I'm going to continue to keep him onside. The course was possibly narrower than ideal last week but at the right venue, dropped in grade on the European Tour, he's a must play.
Over in the States, 19 year-old Chilean, Joaquin Niemann, finished tied fifth at the Greenbrier Classic and that's now secured his card for next year. Whether he's value in the market before tournaments, given he's yet to get off the mark, is debatable and he might be better played in-running. As Justin Ray's tweet displays below, he's an incredible talent but winning that first tournament is never easy and he might just do so from slightly off the pace. He clearly likes TPC Old White but this was the second year running that one bad round derailed his chance of victory and that's completely understandable for one so young. Look out for him lurking someone through 54 holes at a decent price.
Joaquin Niemann does not yet have enough rounds played to officially rank in the season-long stats on the PGA Tour. But if he did, here are what some of his ranks would be: pic.twitter.com/SIW90wcBW0? Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 9, 2018
What Have We Learned This Week
I'm quite sure I'll look back in years to come and view this year's Greenbrier Classic as a bit of a one-off. This was the eighth edition and Na was just the second winner not to be matched at a triple-figure price before the off. He maintained the trend of every winner coming from off the pace and we're still yet to see anyone lead or co-lead after 18, 36 or 54 holes and go on to take the title but he went against the trends by winning the event so easily and by being the only player in the field to trade at odds-on, although Kelly Kraft did briefly touch evens when he led by four during round three.
It was a painful result and with the benefit of hindsight I obviously shouldn't have taken Na on so vociferously, but I couldn't have envisaged him draining all those putts and I've already moved on. I still think this is a great tournament to trade and I'll be doing so again next year.
We're now less than two weeks away from the Open Championship, and Paul Krishnamurty whets the appetite brilliantly here, but we've got the Scottish Open and the John Deere Classic to negotiate first and I'll be back with my previews later today or tomorrow.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter