The Punter's De-Brief: Close but no cigar times three

Golfer Cameron Smith
Australian PGA winner Cameron Smith
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It's been a frustrating week for Steve with three different picks hitting the front in round four without winning in three different events. Read his look back at all the action here...

"The theme of early round four leaders carrying my cash and collapsing continued unabated in the third event to finish over the weekend when pre-event 18/1 chance, Tony Finau, was matched at just [2.06] after he’d birdied the second and third to take up the running but it didn’t last."

The defending champion, Cameron Smith, began the fourth and final round of the Australian PGA Championship with a three-stroke lead but after just five holes of round four he was trailing pre-event favourite, Marc Leishman, by two!

Bogeys at one and four by Smith coincided with three straight birdies by Leishman from the third and Leishman maintained his two-shot advantage right up until the 13th hole. Leishman was matched at just [1.1] but everything changed between the 13th and 16th with Leishman dropping strokes at 14 and 16 as Smith made a couple of birdies at 13 and 15.

Smith was a [6.0] chance before the off and he never traded at any bigger than [9.2] all week long.

Over at the Mauritius Open, my pre-event [60.0] chance, Justin Harding, hit a low of [1.8] when he edged one ahead at the par five second hole in round four but [110.0] chance, Kurt Kitayama, playing in just his third European Tour event, drew level at the third before edging ahead with a stunning eagle three at the fourth.

Harding fell away tamely and it was left to Matthieu Pavon to put in the strongest challenge. The Frenchman was matched at just [2.5] when he looked like closing the gap to one just before the turn but he missed a tiddler for par on the eighth and the 25-year-old Californian, Kitayama, was left alone in front.

The gap at the top was reduced to just a stroke when the American bogeyed the 16th but any talk of a late collapse was soon banished at the par three 17th...

The theme of early round four leaders carrying my cash and collapsing continued unabated in the third event to finish over the weekend when pre-event 18/1 chance, Tony Finau, was matched at just [2.06] after he'd birdied the second and third to take up the running but it didn't last.

Jon Rahm, a pre-event [15.0] shot, took over at the turn and the Spaniard went on to win very easily by four strokes. My man, Finau, finished alone in second, courtesy of a birdie at the 18th which prevented Justin Rose from returning to the top of the world rankings.

My Bets

Yesterday promised plenty but delivered nothing.

As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, Leishman was only backed at the halfway stage at [3.5], but Harding carried my cash from the get-go at [60.0] and Finau was my sole selection in the Bahamas at 18/1. To have all three lead in round four before flopping was obviously disappointing but at least I had the sense to lay Harding back to make a decent profit on the week. I layed the South African at [2.4] before the final round began and again at [1.85] after he'd birdied the second.

I was fast asleep when Leishman went silly odds-on and my bet on Finau was so small it wasn't worth laying anything back on anyway so I can't really complain and I'll just have to write it off as one of those days.

What Have We Learned This Week?

Yet again, as it so often does Down Under, the cream rose to the top at the Australian PGA Championship and concentrating on the market leaders paid dividends. Course form stood up well and if they return to Royal Pines in 12 months time Smith may well be worth following to bring up the hattrick.

Assuming the Mauritius Open is still in existence and that the practice of playing Anahita and the Heritage in alternate years continues, punters will be scratching the heads in two years time. The first renewal here, in May 2016, saw just two players finish the tournament under-par after a blustery week but in much more favourable conditions, 61 broke par this year and the winner got to 20-under! In largely benign conditions this time around, we got a very different result and the big hitters prospered.

The fairways are wide at Anahita and the rough is almost non-existent so it's a bombers paradise. My man Harding played the par fives better than anyone else, in 16-under-par, and the winner ended the week topping the Driving Distance stats so they're the stats to concentrate on if we return to Anahita again.

Jon Rahm was the fourth Hero World Challenge winner at Albany and he was the fourth to win with ease. Hideki Matsuyama only won by a couple of strokes two years ago but that didn't tell the whole story. He'd been seven clear after three rounds and he won very cosily. The other three winners have won by three and four strokes and we're yet to get an exciting finish.

Albany is described by designer Ernie Els as a bit of a mishmash...

"It's a very special golf course. If I were trying to paint an outline mental picture for anyone, I'd say think of a mix between maybe Royal Birkdale and the Els Club Dubai. The bunkering is another particularly strong feature and is partly inspired by one of my favourite types of golf course, the Australian sand-belt classics such as Royal Melbourne."

That description doesn't help us much but after four renewals a couple of patterns are emerging. Previous course experience isn't important. Rahm had never played here before, and neither had Finau or first round leader and eventual fifth, Patrick Cantlay, but all of those players, and the previous winners, have good form in the desert - especially in Phoenix.

Will Finau continue to fail?

There aren't many nicer blokes in the game than Tony Finau but he's going back on the avoid list following yesterday's poor performance after he hit the front. I've been well aware of how fragile he is for a long time but I felt he was worth chancing here because of the nature of the tournament. It's a small field event played in a very relaxed atmosphere but he still struggled when it came to the crunch and as brilliant as he his, he has to be avoided and taken on when in-contention.

We've two events to look forward to this week - the SA Open on the European Tour and the QBE Shootout on the PGA Tour. I'll be back later today or tomorrow with my previews.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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