Bernd Wiesberger has won his third event of the season and Lanto Griffin has bagged his first PGA Tour title. Our man looks back at both wins here...
"Rolex Series form is starting to look like the best form to look at in Rolex Series events as winning one clearly boosts the confidence and three of the last four Rolex Series events have been won by someone that had already bagged one."
Matthew Fitzpatrick began the final round of the Italian Open with a one-stroke lead and he did very little wrong in round four - shooting a two-under-par 69 - but it wasn't enough and for the fourth time in 2019, he ended the week in second place having looked highly likely to take the title.
Pre-event 55.054/1 chance, Bernd Wiesberger, who began the final round trailing by three, played some fabulous golf and he putted brilliantly, recording a six-under-par 65 to edge out Fitzpatrick by a stroke. The pair finished three shots clear of the remainder.
Fitzpatrick started nicely enough yesterday and the pre-tournament 26.025/1 chance was matched at a low of 1.715/7 after he'd birdied the par three second but he failed to kick on - on the front nine and after a great par save on the eighth, after a poor drive, he sent his tee-shot on the par five ninth out of bounds and finished up making a double-bogey seven.
In contrast, Wiesberger finished the front-nine off brilliantly, birdying five, six, seven and nine, and making a great par at eight after a poor drive. The Austrian was in control throughout the back-nine but after he'd hit a low of 1.031/33, long odds-on backers had a slight scare. Fitzpatrick recovered nicely on the back-nine and after Wiesberger had successfully got up-and-down for par form behind the green at the 18th, the Englishman gave himself a tremendous chance to tie him after a fabulous approach on the par five 17th but it wasn't to be.
Over at the Houston Open we were treated to a fascinating finale involving three Korn Ferry Tour graduates - eventual winner, Lanto Griffin, Mark Hubbard and Scott Harrington.
Griffin began the event as a 65.064/1 chance, Hubbard was generally a 140.0139/1 chance, but was matched at a high of 170.0169/1, and Harrington was generally a 220.0219/1 shot, having been matched at a high of 280.0279/1 before the off. All three traded at odds-on...
Griffin was the first to trade at a short price when he dipped to just 2.0421/20 following birdies at one and three but he would drift right out to over 6.05/1 as first Hubbard and then Harrington looked to assume command.
My In-play pick, Hubbard, appeared to be cruising as he hit the front when Griffin bogeyed the 11th and he was matched at a low of 1.75/7 after two great shots on the par five 13th but he failed to get up-and-down for birdie from just off the green and the alarm bells were ringing. He followed that with a scrambled par at the par three 14th and a poor drive at the par five 15th, which eventually led to a bogey six.
Meanwhile, 38-year-old Harrington, who was looking to become the oldest first-time winner on the PGA Tour since Todd Hamilton 15 years ago, playing well ahead of the other two, was finishing in style. He made a bogey at the tricky par three 14th but he birdied 12, 13, 15 and 16 and he was matched at a low of 1.558/15 before he three-putted the par four 17th.
With three 30-something rookies fighting it out on the back-nine, the title was eventually decided by a big slice of luck and a fabulous putt. Griffin had been fortunate to stay dry on the 11th hole when his approach just hung up on the bank but there was nothing fortunate about his birdie putt on 16 to take the lead, or either of his gutsy par saves on 17 and 18. It was great entertainment that produced a very worthy winner.
Not backing Fitzpatrick from the start was a mistake. He was well-backed last Monday and a shorter price than I wanted so I left him out but he was in-form and the course was always going to suit him. I was concerned by his lack of length but that wasn't an issue at all in the end.
As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I was tempted by Wiesberger with a round to go and I did finish up backing him extremely modestly in-running yesterday so that gave me the opportunity to trade to a very small profit. As it transpired, having traded the Austrian back and fore, and having backed the third round leader, Fitzpatrick would have been a better result but I'm not complaining.
Hubbard trading at odds-on should have also guaranteed a profit in Texas but I didn't make the most of that event. It looked really tricky before round four but having got Hubbard onside at 7.613/2 before the final round, I really should have profited when he went odds-on. It wasn't a brief, momentary dip into odds-on either, he traded below par for some time so I have no excuse for not laying him to guarantee a profit.
Rolex Patterns Emerging
There's no point looking back at the event in Texas as we're off to a new venue next year and who knows when we'll see the wonderful Olgiata again in Italy. Having picked out form at Valderrama, Fanling and Crans, the leaderboard throughout backed up those theories so I'd love to go back there soon. Whether we do or not, I'd still look to those events going forward, and to form in Italy. The tournament will again be played in October and the venue has yet to be decided but the organisers tend to pick a traditional, tree-lined parkland course every year so this year's form should stand up nicely.
Rolex Series form is starting to look like the best form to look at in Rolex Series events as winning one clearly boosts the confidence and three of the last four Rolex Series events have been won by someone that had already bagged one. Jon Rahm was winning his third when he won the Irish Open, Danny Willett his second when he won at Wentworth and Wiesberger was following up his victory at the Scottish Open in July when he won yesterday in Rome. Yet again the winner was fairly well-fancied and I wonder whether his price will now adjust to where it should be?
Wiesberger has won all over the world at all sorts of courses and it's all down to the putter. The rest of his game is so good that if the flat-stick behaves he tends to win. If he does have an Achilles heel, even when putting well, it's his short game around the greens but that's improving rapidly and we have to start viewing Bernd as the elite player he is.
We're off to Paris for the Open de France this week and the PGA Tour is off to Korea for the CJ Cup. I'll be back this afternoon or tomorrow with the previews.
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