The Punter's De-Brief: Hovland ends the Puerto Rico hoodoo

Christian Bezuidenhout
Christian Bezuidenhout has won two on the spin now

Antoine Rozner has won in Dubai, Christiaan Bezuidenhout has gone back-to-back in his homeland and Viktor Hovland has ended a longstanding hoodoo. Read Steve's customary lookback at all the action here...

"There have been a dozen editions of the Puerto Rico Open on the PGA Tour since the inaugural edition in 2008 and up until yesterday, no former winner of the event had gone on to win another PGA Tour event."

Pre-event 90.089/1 chance, Emiliano Grillo, led the final PGA Tour event of the year, the Mayakoba Golf Classic, by four strokes at the halfway stage and he was still in front with a round to go, albeit by just a shot. The Argentine was matched at a low of 2.3411/8 in-running but he fell away early on - on Sunday, eventually finishing tied for eighth.

Dave Tindall's excellent each-way pick, Adam Long, put in a sustained run on the back-nine but his chance was lost with and errant drive at 17 and the finish was eventually fought out by pre-tournament 200.0199/1 chance, Aaron Wise, and 28.027/1 chance, Viktor Hovland.

After three birdies in-a-row from the 13th had seen him hit the front, Wise hit a low of 1.594/7 and when Hovland hit a poor second at the ultra-tough 16th hole, he looked the man to beat but after a few dodgy chips, Hovland pulled this out of the bag to save par.

Wise then missed a chance on 18 to post 20-under-par and a nine-under-par Sunday 62 before Hovland stepped up and rolled in his birdie putt at the same hole to avoid extra time and to end a longstanding and unusual curse.

There have been a dozen editions of the Puerto Rico Open on the PGA Tour since the inaugural edition in 2008 and up until yesterday, no former winner of the event had gone on to win another PGA Tour event.

Over on the European Tour, we had two events to enjoy, or in my case, endure. The inaugural Golf in Dubai Championship kicked off on Wednesday and ended on Saturday and I enjoyed most of it...

My pre-event 29.028/1 pick, Andy Sullivan, kicked the event off with an impressive 11-under-par 61 to lead by two and he backed that up with a solid 66 to lead by three at halfway. He threatened to run away from the field when he played his first seven holes of the third round in three-under-par and he was matched at 1.784/5 when he made the turn but he hit the brakes after that, playing the next eight holes in one-over-par.

Despite the poor run, he birdied two of the last three holes of round three to take a two-shot lead into the final round and when his nearest challengers, Matt Wallace and Renato Paratore, both struggled early on, he was matched at a low of just 1.271/4 when he went four clear. He wasn't playing at his best when he made the turn but it always looked like he was going to just do enough until a pair of Frenchmen started to cut into his lead dramatically.

Desert specialist, Mike Lorenzo-Vera, who had begun the fourth round with three straight birdies, kept chipping away at the Englishman's advantage but the big move came from fellow Frenchman, Antoine Rozner, who opened-up the back nine birdie-birdie-par-eagle to hit the front. A bogey at the 15th handed the initiative back to Sullivan but by then he was starting to stutter, and he couldn't capitalise.

In search of his first European Tour title, Rozner, a pre-event 90.089/1 chance, bounced back after the bogey on 15 with birdies at 16 and an 18 as Sullivan limped home, playing the last three holes in one-over-par to lose by two.

Following his impressive success in the Alfred Dunhill Championship the week before, Christiaan Bezuidenhout was a warm 8.615/2 favourite to win the second edition of the South African Open in 2020 (also staged at Randpark in January) and his supporters never had anything much to worry about.

He opened-up the event with three consecutive five-under-par 66s to take a five-stroke lead into the final round at the Gary Player Country Club and after a slow, birdie-free, one-over-par front nine, he moved through the gears effortlessly on the back-nine to win by five.

My Bets

It's been a thoroughly miserable week all told. I made a mess of my Sullivan wager by laying him back and recycling stakes on three different players that I thought looked most likely to catch him. Matt Wallace was covered at halfway, Paratore before round four and Lorenzo-Vera during round four. If any of those had won it would have been a reasonable week but I didn't have a bean on the winner as this eagle at the 13th saw his price collapse.

With the benefit of hindsight, I was trying to be too clever and I should have just held on and waited and layed Sullivan at the shorter price on Saturday but it's always easy afterwards.

I wasn't going to get involved at the South African Open but after he'd found water with his approach to the eighth hole and hit a very poor second shot on the ninth, I thought the leader was worth laying modestly at 1.330/100 as he stood over a par save at the ninth to avoid shooting a two-over-par front nine but he rolled that in and birdied the next three!

I also drew a blank in Mexico where pre-event pick, Justin Thomas, started very slowly. He got himself into contention with a great third round and he was back trading at his SP of 8.615/2 with a round to go but the putter misfired all day yesterday and his chance was gone by the 10th.

And just to add insult to injury, I see I backed Bezuidenhout to win the first edition of the South African open back in January at 38.037/1. It's been a week to forget.

Hovland has higher to fly yet

I hadn't been overly impressed by Hovland's first victory. He'd looked a bit nervy and he holed a very lengthy birdie putt at the final hole to secure the win but what I like about him is there's so much scope for improvement. He's already up to number 15 in the world but there are at least two areas of his game that he can improve in...

He was surprisingly candid after his win yesterday, freely admitting to being nervous.

"I don't really feel like I'm very good at those pressure situations...Don't feel comfortable in those moments at all."

Many young golfers make a breakthrough and claim they love being in-contention and that they thrive on it, only to spend years being disappointing in-contention. James Morrison is a classic example. I like Hovland's honesty and it suggests he's only likely to get better at handling the heat of battle. He's also highly likely to improve his awful chipping!

For such a fantastic player, it's really quite surprising how poor he is around the green at saving par. Where other top players will repeatedly chip up to within a few feet or even inches when they miss the green, Hovland is odds-on to leave himself a ten-footer for par but that's not a bad thing considering he's only 23, has two PGA Tour titles already.

Having the potential to improve so much in such a big aspect of his game suggests he can climb much higher than he already has and it's something to keep an eye on. He will fix the issue and when he does, he'll start winning with even more regularity but for now, with wins in Puerto Rico and Mexico, he's merely the Prince of Paspalum...

Hovland may be the first Puerto Rico Open winner to win elsewhere but he was far from the first player to contend at both events and that isn't a surprise given both venues have the unusual paspalum grass putting surfaces.

Stats-wise, Hovland ranked number one for Greens In Regulation and that remains a key stat here given six of the last seven winners have ranked 11th or better.

That's now for 2020 on the PGA Tour and we have just one event left on the European Tour - the DP World Championship in Dubai, which starts on Thursday.

The field is yet to be confirmed and so the market isn't yet on the exchange but anyone wanting to get a head start can check out my preview here. I'll add the market leaders and selections later today or tomorrow.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

New on Betting.Betfair – Betslip

You can now bet without leaving Betting.Betfair with our brand new on-site betslip for Exchange markets. You'll see the Exchange back and lay prices at the end of articles - simply login and place your bets as you would do on the main Exchange site

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open account using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn We'll Refund You £/€20 If the Bet Loses

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles