Jon Rahm has got off the mark in Europe and Xander Schauffele has won for the first time on the PGA Tour. Read Steve's customary look back at both last week's events here...
“After that brilliant eagle, Rahm relaxed completely and just powered away from the rest and I was left with a losing book. He won so easily it looked like a daft decision to take him on but that one shot changed everything and who knows what would have happened without it?”
Pre-tournament third favourite, Jon Rahm, has pulverised the field at Portstewart to win the Irish Open by six strokes in a record-breaking 24-under-par. It's the 22-year-old's first European Tour title and the victory has elevated him up to number eight in the Official World Rankings.
The impressive Spaniard will take this week off before attempting to win his first major at Royal Birkdale. Understandably, given he advertised his aptitude for links golf so evidently in Ireland, Rahm has been very well supported for the Open Championship and he's now just the fourth most likely winner at just 18.017/1.
As impressive as Rahm's victory was, it couldn't be described as exciting and it was all over bar the shouting after nine holes of round four yesterday but things were much more thrilling in the States where the Greenbrier Classic was devilishly tricky to call until 23-year-old Californian, Xander Schauffele, did this at the 72nd hole.
Robert Streb, who had been beaten in a playoff two years ago, on the last occasion the tournament had been staged, looked the most likely winner and he twice dipped to an odds-on price. Having begun the event as a 220.0219/1 chance, he hit a low of 1.748/11 after he'd birdied the par five 12th hole and before he drove into the water on the 13th. Streb made a double-bogey six there and then went odds-on again after he'd driven on the par five 17th.
Tied with Schauffele and one ahead of long-time leader, Sebastian Munoz, Streb looked to be in pole from position A in the fairway on the reachable par five 17th but he caught a really bad break with his approach when the ball bounced right and in to the greenside bunker from where he failed to get up-and-down.
Streb looked drained afterwards and it was impossible not to feel for him, or for Munoz. The young Colombian, who hit a low of 2.245/4 in-running, having been matched at 720.0719/1 before the off, lost his way on the front nine yesterday but he rallied well and I couldn't help but pull for him. It's so hard to win and event wire-to-wire and given he eventually finished tied for third and just two adrift, it was a valiant enough effort.
Jon Rahm's victory cost me a few pounds. As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I modestly layed him before the fourth round and for three holes it looked like a reasonable decision. The Spaniard wasn't totally convincing and he needed a long par save at the second to keep things going.
My halfway pick, Hideto Tanihara, started well and after he'd birdied the par five fourth, to get within one of the lead, he shortened up to 5.04/1. I was just sat pondering for how much I should lay him back when the market changed dramatically before me. My man drifted out to 7.06/1 and Rahm's odds tumbled form around 2.89/5 to 1.51/2 and this is why...
After that brilliant eagle, Rahm relaxed completely and just powered away from the rest and I was left with a losing book. He won so easily it looked like a daft decision to take him on but that one shot changed everything and who knows what would have happened without it?
Having traded to a decent position with a round to go at the Greenbrier Classic, and having lost earlier in the day, the plan for the evening was to recoup losses and finish in front for the week. It wasn't what I'd hoped for at the beginning of the week and as highlighted in the In-Play Blog, not having many players in-contention hampered trading yesterday but I did manage to achieve my objective and when I'd traded myself to a worst case scenario of a win of £280 (Streb), I left things alone with three holes to play.
I could have regretted being more aggressive and laying Streb for more when he hit odds-on for a second time but all things considered, having drew a blank in Ireland, and having layed the winner there, I was happy enough to make a profit.
What Have We Learned This Week?
Although I didn't win as much as I hoped I might this year, a couple of factors hindered me and I'll adopt the same tactics again at the Greenbrier Classic. Going out on Saturday night hampered my progress and I know I missed laying a couple of players during round three. Kelly Kraft hit a low of 5.95/1 and Russell Henley was matched at just 3.39/4 on Saturday night so taking them on more would have put me in a better position with a round to go.
And the fact so few were in-the-mix come Sunday was a hindrance too. This system works best when players come from off the pace and lots of players get in to the mix but the leaders had given themselves a bit of a gap on the field come Sunday. In 2015, the last time this event was staged, 39 players were within five of the lead with a round to go. This time around there was just seven. The winner was always highly likely to come from the front four with a round to go so I had to guard against being overexposed with any of them.
With Munoz getting beat, we've still never witnessed any end of round leader winning the tournament and although the winner was an 80.079/1 chance before the off, he's the first winner to be trading in double-figures before the event and it's still very much an outsiders event.
The winner and the third were both playing the course for the first time and that's a good angle in. I know Streb now has back-to-back seconds and a number of players have contended there on multiple occasions but course form is certainly not essential.
With the Open Championship just a week away, the European Tour moves to Scotland for the Scottish Open and on the PGA Tour we're off to Illinois for the John Deere Classic. I'll be back later today or tomorrow with my previews.
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