The Punter's De-Brief: Super Stenson wins again and a star is born in Mauritius

Golfer Henrik Stenson
Henrik Stenson with the Horrible Hero trophy

At the age of 43, Sweden's Henrik Stenson has won again on the PGA Tour and 18-year-old Danish sensation, Rasmus Højgaard, has won for the first time on the European Tour...

"Rasmus’ twin brother, Nicolai, finished runner-up to Sergio Garcia at the KLM Open back in September and I’d be happy to wager a few bob that these two are going to be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come."

My sole pre-event selection, Gary Woodland, backed at 27.026/1 but generally a 24.023/1 chance at the off, led the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas by a stroke with a round to go but he never looked like winning and I never got a chance to take any profit.

Henrik Stenson, a pre-tournament 42.041/1 chance, who had begun the final day trailing by a stroke, birdied the first to draw level and when Woodland played holes two to four in four-over-par, it was the veteran Swede's to lose.

A run of pars was followed by back-to-back birdies at seven and eight and he tripped up at the tricky par five ninth, where he recorded a bogey six. He bounced back with a birdie at the 10th though, saved par from 30 feet at 11, birdied 13 and saved par again from distance at 14 to keep on track and he really took control with this stunning approach shot at the par five 15th.

Patrick Reed birdied three in-a-row between 15 and 17 but fell short by a couple and the defending champ, Jon Rahm, put in a great finish too - birdying 14, eagling 15 and birdying 16 but pars at the last two left him one shot shy. Incredibly, this was Stenson's first win anywhere in more than two years, hence his big price before the off.

The Mauritius Open provided a dramatic and fairly typical European Tour event finish with all sorts of twists and turns as infrequent winners, long standing maidens, Q-school qualifiers and Challenge Tour graduates threatened to win and threatened to throw it away in almost equal measures.

The incredibly promising Scot, Calum Hill, had led the event at halfway and he was still tied for the lead with a round to go but he set the tone for round four with a triple-bogey seven at the first. Having been matched at a low of 3.1511/5, he was soon out of the running.

Benjamin Hebert, a six-time winner on the Challenge Tour, who's still in search of his first European Tour title, had been beaten in three playoffs in 2019, but it looked like he might finally get off the mark when he hit the front with a couple to play. The 32-year-old Frenchman was matched at just 3.211/5 but he bogeyed 17 and he could only par the par five 18th. He would be one of four to finish a shot shy.

Italy's Renato Paratore, the 2017 Nordea Masters winner, went two clear after playing the front-nine in five-under-par. Matched at a low of 2.01/1, he looked like putting that winning experience to good use but bogeys followed at 10 and 13 and his chance looked lost until birdies at 14 and 18 saw him post 19-under-par. One better than Hebert and co.

With far more experienced players flapping in-the-mix, 18-year-old q-school qualifier, Rasmus Højgaard, started round four birdie-eagle before bouncing back nicely after back-to-back bogeys at four and five. He made a bit of a mess of the very easy par five 14th but kept his composure to birdie 18th and join Paratore in the clubhouse on -19. It didn't quite look like it would be enough...

Pre-event favourite, Thomas Detry, had looked the most likely winner and the highly talented Belgian hit 1.758/11 after a brilliant drive at the par four 11th but he made a complete mess of the hole from 80 odd yards out to record a double-bogey six. He rallied with birdies at 14 and 16 but just when it looked like he might finally assume command, just like Hebert, he finished with a pair of fives. And just like Hebert, he finished one short off the clubhouse lead

As all this was going on, 25 year-old Frenchman, Antoine Rozner, had looked the most likely to take the title. The pre-event 100.099/1 Challenge Tour graduate had started round four nervously, bogeying one and three, but he birdied five, seven, 10, 11 and 14 to hit the front and he was matched at 1.51/2. If he could birdie 15, 16, 17 or the par five 18th, he would lift the trophy. He couldn't and we were into extra time.

Paratore was soon out of the equation when he found water with his approach at the first extra hole and Højgaard, who had been matched for a few pounds at 220.0219/1 before the off but who'd been generally a 130.0129/1 chance, was matched at a low of 1.091/11 as he gave himself a chance to make eagle. Rozner's approach had finished up in a greenside bunker, but a long way from the hole, and it was definitely advantage to Højgaard but Rozner hit a brilliant bunker shot and the young Dane missed his eagle chance.

The pair both birdied the hole again at the second time of asking and the Frenchman did nothing wrong at the third extra hole. He again found the green in two and he lagged his first putt up to the hole nicely but Højgaard played the hole brilliantly.

My Bets

It's been a disappointing weekend. Woodland flopping on Saturday was the first let down, closely followed by the poor final rounds posted by both Brandon Stone and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who had both been in-contention in Mauritius most of the way through.

I got up to see that Bezuidenhout, who had begun round four trailing by three, had bogeyed the first, but it wasn't all bad news. Stone had got to within a stroke of the lead after a birdie at the opening hole and that was a huge improvement on his triple-bogey seven there in round three!

Given he'd birdied the par five second hole on each of the first three days, I switched on the TV hopeful that he'd be tied at the top by the time the kettle had boiled but the first thing I saw was Stone scrabbling around in knee-high grass, looking for his ball after his second shot had travelled no more than a few yards in the rubbish. He'd been lucky to find his ball after a poor drive but rather than take his medicine, he'd taken a long iron from the long grass and it had gone nowhere. He finished up making seven and that was that. Stone went on to finish tied for 13th and Bezuidenhout 21st.

The Future's Bright

Although I drew a blank, I really enjoyed watching the Mauritius Open over the weekend and seeing so many promising young players in-the-mix bodes well for the European Tour, with Scotland being especially well represented.

Calum Hill can be forgiven his tardy weekend given it was the first time he'd been right in the thick of it on the European Tour, Grant Forrest, who I'd backed at a monster price last week in South Africa, contended again, and another Scot, Connor Syme, finished tied for ninth but the winner was incredibly impressive given he's only 18. And there's two of them!

Rasmus' twin brother, Nicolai, finished runner-up to Sergio Garcia at the KLM Open back in September and I'd be happy to wager a few bob that these two are going to be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.

There's no European Tour action this week but there's still plenty of golf to enjoy. The Presidents Cup starts on Wednesday and Dave Tindall will cover the biannual bash between the International team and the Americans in Australia. And I'll be back later with a look at the QBE Shootout on the PGA Tour which begins on Saturday.

strong>*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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