The Punter's De-Brief: Snail-like Holmes grinds his way to Riviera victory
Ryan Fox is off the mark on the European Tour and J.B Holmes has won his fifth PGA Tour title, four years after his fourth. Steve Rawlings looks back at all the action here...
"I don’t know whether there’s an element of gamesmanship in there or whether he just can’t speed up but it needs to be addressed. It was a really exciting finish but his snail-like pace soon became the narrative, not his brilliance, grit and determination and with a global TV audience, that can’t be good for the game."
Adrian Otaegui played so nicely during the bulk of Sunday's match play element of the ISPS Handa World Super 6 that he began Sunday's final as the odds-on favourite, despite meeting Ryan Fox, who had begun the week at a much shorter price.
Otaegui, who was a [50.0] shot before the off, hit a low of [1.75] before the tournament decider began but after playing well all day, he just didn't turn up in the final. The Spaniard bogeyed the first two holes and he was odds-on to bogey the third when Fox, a pre-tournament [30.0] shot, made birdie to go three-up through three. I thought we might be in for a bit of a treat when the final started but it transpired to be a bit of a damp squib, with the Kiwi cruising to a 3&2 victory.
This was Fox's first European Tour victory and he's clearly highly-respected. He deserved to take a title after being so cruelly denied in Ireland last summer and his win was universally well-received by his peers.
Rollercoaster ride at the Genesis
In complete contrast to the event Down Under, where what looked like being an exciting finale was anything but, the final round of the Genesis Open was an unexpected rollercoaster ride with all sorts of twists and turns.
Justin Thomas, a well-fancied [16.0] chance before the off, hit a low of [1.18] when he led by four with a round to go but the cakewalk expected didn't materialise as the world number four's driving deteriorated and his putter went cold. Thomas bogeyed three of the first five holes before gaining some composure but just when he looked like settling down to get the job done, he three-putted the 10th for bogey, just as J.B Holmes made birdie, and that was the first of three two-shot swings in four holes!
After a brilliant chip from the rough on the par five 11th, Holmes did this to record a bogey, as Thomas tapped in for birdie and Holmes went from one behind to one in front.
Thomas hit a low of [1.2] again before he four-putted the 13th to hand the initiative back to Holmes. He'd gone 190 holes without a three-putt when he made the turn but as the wind picked up to make the greens fast and treacherous, he three-putted 10, four putted 13 and three-putted 14!
Holmes traded at around [1.2] as he looked to be in command with just three to play but a loose tee-shot at the par three 16th, just as Thomas hit his to seven feet, suggested we might see yet another two-stroke lead. Holmes was having none of it though and this par save summed up his determined performance perfectly.
Having made the seven foot birdie putt at 16 to get back within one, Thomas had another seven foot birdie chance at 17 to tie and having been matched at a double figure price, his price tumbled down to [2.5] but as he'd done numerous times earlier in the round, he missed the very makeable chance and J.B was left to par the final hole for a deserved victory.
Holmes, who was generally a [250.0] chance, was matched at a high [400.0] before the off, despite having very respectable course form figures reading 51-7-6-3-12-8-MC-52-22-11-24-60.
In tricky conditions, after a long, weather-delayed event, Holmes deserved much credit for his dogged victory but it was, understandably, not immediately forthcoming. He's so painfully slow, that what should have been a real treat to watch was anything but. His inability to ready himself to hit from the fairway and his dawdling plum-bobbing on the greens was irritating in the extreme and these side-by-side photos of Holmes and Thomas on 17 summed up the day.
I don't know whether there's an element of gamesmanship in there or whether he just can't speed up but it needs to be addressed. It was a really exciting finish but his snail-like pace soon became the narrative, not his brilliance, grit and determination and with a global TV audience, that can't be good for the game.
It's not been a good week but it's been far from a disaster - mainly because I've been away for the weekend so I didn't get too involved.
Having backed Otaegui at 18/1 at the halfway stage in Perth, I toyed with taking some profit before the final began but I decided to wait and try and trade him in-running instead. It wasn't that I thought he was too big to lay at just a shade of odds-on, quite the contrary, I thought he was a fraction short given the calibre of the opposition, but I also thought I'd see him trade shorter in-play. The bet was far from big but with the benefit of hindsight, I shouldn't have been so greedy and I should have put myself in profit.
I drew a blank with my three pre-event picks at Riviera and Jordan Spieth was particularly disappointing after I'd got him onside in-play. I probably should have taken the hint and put the spade down but I backed Thomas at [2.4] after his slow start and just as I'd done in Perth, I failed to capitalise on a good position. He hit a low of [1.2] after I'd backed him and it would have been simply enough to lock in some profit but I didn't.
What Have We Learned This Week?
We've had three editions of the ISPS Handa World Super 6 and despite the nature of the tournament, all three winners have been fairly well-fancied. It's easy to think that six-hole match play would be a format to produce shocks and random results but that hasn't been the case so far. We have had a couple of rank outsiders make it all the way to the final, and luck clearly plays a big part, but the three winners have all been priced at no bigger than [30.0].
The inaugural winner, Brett Rumford, was well-backed after opening up at 50/1 at the start of the week, last year's champ, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, was a 25/1 chance and this year, not only was the winner only a [30.0] shot, but all four semi-finalists were priced at 80/1 and below.
It was a profitable but frustrating week for our each-way picks with Paul Krishnamurty's 80/1 chance, Scott Vincent, and Joe Dyer's 50/1 shot, Paul Dunne, both reaching the semi-finals but neither could reach the final.
All three winners have enjoyed more than a small slice of luck on the way and Fox's fortunate moment came in the second match play round when Jazz Janewattananond missed a three-footer to knock the Kiwi out.
It was very noticeable that Otaegui's inability to get up-and-down at the first two holes in the final was costly and a terrific touch around the greens is vital at Lake Karrinyup. Great scrambling is key.
Over at the Genesis Open, this was the third time in four years that heavy rain had an impact on the tournament and the leaderboard was again dominated by big-hitters. In dry conditions, length off the tee is an irrelevance but when the course is sodden, it's a huge plus. The bigger hitters tend to be less accurate than the shorter ones but the damp fairways prevent tee-shots from running in to the rough and keeping an eye on the weather forecast is clearly very important. As we saw yesterday, as the course started to dry out, Riviera is a very different venue in dry conditions.
We've got two tournaments to look forward to this week - the WGC-Mexico Championship and the Puerto Rico Open - and I'll be back tomorrow with the previews.
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