The Punter's De-Brief: Ross the boss in Italy and Cantlay swoops at Sherwood

Golfer Ross McGowan
Ross McGowan with the Italian Open trophy

Patrick Cantlay has won the ZOZO championship from slightly off the pace and 1000.0 chance, Ross McGowan, has won the Italian Open. Our man looks back at all the action here...

"Canter’s price fascinated me for much of the weekend, and especially yesterday. I know the calibre of the chasing pack wasn’t the strongest and some will read this as purely hindsight but I thought, at least in part, it reflected the optimism of punters over the realism of the situation."

Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm dominated the ZOZO Championship market with a round to go and they both shortened up considerably throughout the final round.

Having led by a stroke through 54 holes, world number three, Thomas, who had been a 15.014/1 chance before the off, birdied his first two holes of round four and his price dipped to 1.794/5 when he was three under though six but he lost his way after that.

Struggling off the tee, Thomas was caught and passed by world number two and pre-event 12.011/1 chance, Jon Rahm, who himself traded at odds-on, hitting a low of 1.654/6, but after a birdie four at the 11th, he bogeyed 12 and 13, just as pre-event 44.043/1 chance and world number 12, Patrick Cantlay, went on a run.

Having trailed by three, Cantlay had begun the final round trading at 15.014/1 but he played the front nine in four-under-par to edge closer to the leaders before birdying four holes in five from the 11th to take control, just as the front two began their shenanigans.

Cantlay looked like assuming command as he played the par five 16th but having laid up to a perfect spot with his second shot, and having presumably seen he'd struck the front, he hit an appalling wedge shot into a tree adjacent to the green before bumbling his way to a bogey six. It was game on again.

Cantlay wins ZOZO.jpg

Having just bogeyed the par three 15th, Thomas looked the most likely to put some heat on Cantlay after a booming drive on 16 but instead of setting up a chance for eagle, he hit his approach way right and into a hazard, from where he took a drop and scrambled par. Rahm, whose price had spiked to 40.039/1 from odds-on, was then matched at just over 3.02/1 when he got to within one with a birdie at 16 but after Cantlay had parred in and Rahm and Thomas had parred 17, it was Thomas that birdied 18 to draw alongside Rahm when the Spaniard had needed a three to tie Cantlay.

It was a scruffy back-nine display by the two main protagonists and both will feel that this was one that got away. Cantlay's seven-under-par 65 was enough to take the title by one and it sees him move up to number nine in the world rankings. And just to add insult to injury for Rahm, Thomas' birdie at the 72nd hole that saw him draw alongside the Spaniard, stopped Rahm from returning to the top of the world rankings.

Earlier in the day, 11 years and 15 days after winning his only previous European Tour title, the now defunct Madrid Masters, and following 14 starts on the European Tour this season that had produced a best finishing position of tied 42nd, pre-event 1000.0 shot, Ross McGowan, won the Italian Open.

The 38-year-old Englishman had been in-contention all week long, but he never really looked like winning until this highly unlikely birdie at the 16th on Sunday.

McGowan was very modest and honest in victory.

"I hit the ball terribly today. Luckily the putter kept me in it again today and the bunker shot on 16 was probably one of the best that will go down in my memory.

"I was hitting it all over the place. Tee-shot on 16 was a shocker, the second shot wasn't much better and then holed out the bunker shot. So, I think that was the one where it gave me a bit of belief and then obviously, to roll that putt in on 18 was magical really."

For much of the tournament, Matt Cooper's 50/1 each-way fancy, Laurie Canter, had been the most likely winner and after his sensational 12-under-par 60 to begin the event, he was the favourite throughout. With nobody putting any real heat on the two leaders, Canter spent much of the final round trading at odds-on - hitting a low of 1.341/3 - but he was struggling along all day and it was no surprise to see his level par 72 come up shy.

The only real surprise was that it was his playing partner that beat him with a one-under-par 71. Dean Burmester hit a low of 3.259/4 on the back-nine and Nicolas Colsaerts was matched at 3.211/5 as he finished strongly with birdies at 16 and 18 but he finished alongside Canter in second when McGowan rolled in his 20-foot birdie putt at 18.

My Bets

I backed Martin Kaymer in-running yesterday as the leaders flapped about and I also layed both Canter and McGowan at odds-on but I can't help but think I didn't get anywhere near stuck in enough and that I should have had a much better week.

Canter had been a very popular pick before the off and I was amazed how his price held up over the weekend. The 30-year-old Englishman, who's yet to win, never looked entirely comfortable but the market seemed to love him.

I was reluctant to get after him because the challengers weren't obvious but I felt he'd find a way to lose regardless. It was an odd tournament to trade and I'm happy to move on.

As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I fancied Rahm was the value with a round to go at the ZOZO Championship so his back-nine was disappointing and it's been a poor week overall but nothing disastrous.

The cost of optimism

Canter's price fascinated me for much of the weekend, and especially yesterday. I know the calibre of the chasing pack wasn't the strongest and some will read this as purely hindsight but I thought, at least in part, it reflected the optimism of punters over the realism of the situation.

He always looked to be struggling yet his price held up all day long yesterday. He'd been tipped up in a few places and there were an army of punters cheering him on but how many used the exchange to profit from what was an excellent selection?

It should have been the other way around really, with all his backers looking to lay off at odds-on to make sure they made a nice profit. I like a moan, and I'm fairly good at it, but it staggers me how many people bemoan their luck when they're on a player that gets beat that was matched at a high of 80.079/1 and a low of 1.341/3. That should not be a losing pick.

Putting comps are tough to predict

It had looked highly likely that the Italian Open would be a low scoring birdie-fest and so it proved to be but it just shows how hard those types of event are for punters.

McGowan ranked third for Putting Average, second for Strokes Gained Putting and first for Putts Per Round for the week but I'm not sure how anyone could have seen that coming given his overall level of form.

His victory was a magnificent story and it was lovely to see how many fellow pros tweeted out their congratulations but it was a reminder once again that events on easy resort courses that we haven't seen before are treacherous to bet on.

Bubba and Smith the Masters movers

Rory McIlroy made 29 birdies at Sherwood Country Club last week, the most he's ever made in a 72 holes stroke play event but he still only finished tied for 17th on 15-under-par.

With the US Masters fast approaching it's hard to know whether that's encouraging or not but the market's not impressed. The world number five has eased fractionally and the big mover over the weekend was Bubba Watson, who's now down to 32.031/1 to win his third Green Jacket after his eye-catching tied fourth.

Following a decent 11th in the CJ Cup the week before, this year's Sony Open winner, Cameron Smith, finished alongside Bubba in a tie for fourth, and he looks to be rounding into form just at the right time too. He was also alongside Bubba (and Rory) at the US Masters two years ago (in a tie for fifth) so it's understandable that he's halved in price over the last week or so. We had to wait an age to see an Australian win the US Masters (Adam Scott 2013), the wait for a second may not be so long.

The European Tour visits Cyprus for the first time this week with the inaugural Aphrodite Hill Cyprus Open and the PGA Tout stops off in Bermuda for the Bermuda Championship. I'll be back later today or tomorrow with the previews.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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