Steve takes a look back at last week's golf action, where there were victories for a young South African and a veteran Argentine. Read our man's customary look back at all the market moves and lessons learned here...
“I couldn’t have been more impressed with Zac Blair and I most certainly underestimated him. Even though he began the day tied for the lead and playing with vastly more experienced players in Kevin Kisner and Brandt Snedeker, he didn’t flinch. Every putt reached the hole and he was arguably unlucky not to get off the mark on the PGA Tour.”
It was a good week for the layers with outsiders winning both tournaments. Haydn Porteous, matched at a high of 250.0249/1, but generally a 190.0189/1 shot before the off, won the Joburg Open in impressive style, by two strokes over fellow young South African, Zander Lombard. The 21-year-old putted well all week and I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if he didn't kick on and become a player of note on the European Tour.
Over at the Sony Open, my pre-event pick, Fabian Gomez, backed at 110.0109/1, shot a fantastic final round of 62 to get into a playoff with Brandt Snedeker, having trailed by four with a round to go.
I've got mixed feelings about the Joburg Open, where I drew a blank. One of my very modest pre-event picks, Paul Dunne, looked a real threat over the weekend but he flattered to deceive - appearing to lose his cool far too early in round four. He was matched at around 5.04/1 in-running but as my bet was so small, I didn't bother laying anything back.
I didn't like the look of the event from the outset and I was extremely cautious in-running so on the one hand, I didn't get too involved so losses were minimal but on the other, had I been a fraction bolder I'd have probably won a few quid.
I wrote yesterday morning in the in-play blog that "if forced to pick out a bet at this stage, I'd probably go for Porteous" so not backing him was a minor irritation. As was not taking on Anthony Wall, who was matched at just 2.427/5 in-running, and the one in-play bet I did place was a disappointment...
With so much inexperience at the top of the leaderboard, there was always a likelihood we'd get an off-the-pace winner so when Bjorn Akesson, who had begun the day in a tie for tenth, closed to within one of the lead with just three to play, he looked worth siding with. He was matched at just 2.727/4 and I perhaps should have layed him back because he showed on 18 why he's not yet won - taking four strokes from the rough beside the par five 18th green to make bogey when a birdie would have seen him tied at the top.
Over at the Sony, profits were assured after Gomez birdied seven holes in-row from the sixth. I layed him at odds ranging from 3.953/1 to 1.758/11 before he hit a low of 1.664/6 when he led by two with six to play. It was an eventful final round and things got really interesting after that. Gomez missed the green at the really tough 13th as Zac Blair holed a lengthy putt from of the green on 12th. The two were suddenly tied and when my man three-putted the 14th, he drifted right out to 6.05/1
To cut a long story short, Blair was matched at a low of 1.834/5 before he bogeyed the 14th, and when Snedeker tied for the lead with two to play, he took up the favourite's mantle and was matched at just 1.654/6. There were twists and turns aplenty on the back nine and by the time Gomez and Snedeker played off for the title, I'd traded myself into a nice position regardless of the result.
Player to Follow
I couldn't have been more impressed with Zac Blair and I most certainly underestimated him. Even though he began the day tied for the lead and playing with vastly more experienced players in Kevin Kisner and Brandt Snedeker, he didn't flinch. Every putt reached the hole and he was arguably unlucky not to get off the mark on the PGA Tour. Only tremendous finishes by the two playoff protagonists denied him but he won't be long before he does get across the line on the evidence of yesterday's performance and he was to keep the right side of when he's in-contention.
What Have We Leaned For Next Year?
Gomez was the 12th winner in 18 years to have warmed up in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he was yet another outsider to take the title, and he reaffirmed what a good guide the FedEx St Jude is. Gomez won at TPC Southwind last year and it's well worth highlighting that the man that led Gomez with a round to go in Memphis, Greg Owen, finished fifth yesterday, franking the link nicely.
The correlation between Waialae and Hilton Head was also reaffirmed with Snedeker (the 2011 RBC Heritage winner) and Kisner (last year's RBC runner-up) bang in-contention this week.
Although they'd both played Waialae previously, neither Gomez nor Snedeker had shone there - far from it. Gomez had two missed cuts and a tied 67th to his name and Sneds two missed cuts but they're not the first to suddenly improve there after a couple of poor efforts. The fact that Gomez had form at similar tracks meant he had the game for the venue and the fact that he'd not played well there meant for a great price, so looking at course form at venues that correlate well is worth the effort.
Gomez's win went against the in-running trends though. He was tied for 68th, six off the lead, and matched at 900.0899/1 after round one and he was still five back at halfway. Although he was sat fifth after three rounds, he was still four back and he was just the fifth player in 46 years to win from that far adrift through 54 holes. It was a remarkable round and yet he still needed extra time to get over the line and I'll still favour the frontrunners going forward. Snedeker backers will rightly feel aggrieved given he led or co-led after every round.
We've got a real treat on the European Tour this week with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy doing battle at the Abu Dhabi Championship and I'll be back later today with my preview. Whilst on the PGA Tour, the CareerBuilder Challenge kicks off the West Coast Swing.
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