The Punter's De-Brief: Cantlay benefits from Rahm's misfortune

Golfer Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay after holing his par save in extra time

Patrick Cantlay has won The Memorial Tournament and Marcus Armitage is off the mark in Europe. Steve Rawlings takes a look back at their victories here...

“Rahm may ease slightly in the market as others perform well this week and the memory of his magnificent play on Saturday starts to fade but he’s a worthy favourite and the one they all have to beat.”

Although it began slowly, with a couple of weather delays on Thursday, The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village produced all sorts of drama in the end.

The world number three, Jon Rahm, was in the half of the field (drawn AM-PM) that had to return to the course on Saturday to finish up their second rounds and it turned out to be an incredibly eventful day for the Spaniard.

Rahm made a hole-in-one at the 16th hole to take him two clear of the field at the halfway stage before he fired an astoundingly good eight-under-par 64 in round three, which included birdies at six of his last eight holes.

Rahm's remarkable run to the house had seen him race six clear off the field and he was trading at just 1.141/7 to make the first successful Memorial Tournament title defence since Tiger Woods in 2000 but as he walked off the 18th green, Rahm was given the devastating news that he'd tested positive for COVID.

With Rahm forced to withdraw, Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay entered the fourth and final round tied at the top with Branden Grace and Scottie Scheffler, tied for third and three back, the only other players within six of the lead.

On a scintillating Sunday, Scheffler was the first to make a move and he was matched at a low of 2.6613/8 but his challenge petered out after bogeys at six and nine and it was left to the two 54-hole leaders to scrap it out on the back-nine.

Morikawa edged ahead with a birdie at the par five 11th but Cantlay responded, holing a 17 footer at 13 to draw level before Morikawa again took a one-stroke lead with another birdie at the 15th and when Cantlay missed from eight foot for a birdie at the 16th, Morikawa was matched at a low of 1.51/2 as he led by one with two to play.

Both men found the fairway on 17 and there was little to suggest we were about to witness the most dramatic moment on the back-nine. Morikawa hit his approach through the green and into the rough some 48 feet from the pin as Cantlay fired his second to 23 feet, just before the heavens opened.

Morikawa then played a poor chip in the downpour that finished 11 feet short of the hole, just before Cantlay declined to play his putt. It was a confusing situation. A Rules Official came on to the green to speak with Cantlay and it wasn't clear whether he was told not to play or whether he asked if he could wait.

I've seen it suggested that there may have been a weather warning but if that was the case, why did Cantlay stand under a tree to wait for the rain to ease? It looked like a tough break for Morikawa and a really good break for Cantlay when he rolled the birdie putt in once the rain had stopped.

Cantlay was matched at 1.331/3 as a two-shot swing looked like a long odds-on shot but to Morikawa's credit, he stepped up and rolled in the par save and the pair went to 18th tee tied again.

Both men made par at the final hole and for the sixth time in nine events at Muirfield Village, we were heading into extra time.

Morikawa again looked the most likely winner as both men missed the green but Cantlay sealed the deal with this excellent par save that Morikawa couldn't match.

Over on the European Tour, just three weeks after Richard Bland finally won his first event, we've just witnessed another feel-good winner with pre-event 120.0119/1 chance, Marcus Armitage, flying through the field to win the Porsche European Open by two strokes.

The Bullet, as he's known on the Tour, began the final round trailing by four and trading at around 70.069/1, but he birdied one and three before producing this bit of magic at seven to really get in-the-mix.

Armitage kept the pedal down on the back-nine and despite a slightly sloppy finish (played the last four holes in +1) he never really looked like getting caught.

Co-54-hole leader, Matthew Southgate, who like his fellow Englishman, Armitage, was also in search of his first European Tour victory, was matched at a low of 2.915/8 but after a birdie at 15 to get within one, the pre-event 270.0269/1 chance failed to give himself a clear chance at 16 or 17 before he drove into the water at 18.

Following his brilliant seven-under-par 65, Armitage had a long and nervous wait to see if he'd done enough and by the time his victory was confirmed the 33-year-old was understandably emotional and so too was everyone watching his interview!

My Bets

As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I got very lucky with Rahm, laying him at odds-on early on in round three.

I'd resigned myself to paying out as he finished up on 18 on Saturday night and I was very surprised to see the news.

I was one of plenty of people to side with Morikawa before round four (his odds shortened from 2.68/5 to 2.26/5 on Sunday morning) and I drew a blank in Germany but I'm not going to start bemoaning my luck after the ridiculous break with Rahm.

Course form's king at Muirfield

The Muirfield designer, Jack Nicklaus, had made extensive changes to the track before the off again but it didn't stop three former course winners - Rahm, Cantlay and Morikawa - contending and course form is obviously worth plenty, whilst over at the Porsche European Open, Armitage was the fourth English winner in-a-row at Green Eagle.

Will a well-rested Rahm thrive at Torrey Pines?

Rahm's been all the rage in the US Open market after his impressive display on Saturday but punters have to now decide how detrimental, or indeed, beneficial, having to self-isolate until a week on Tuesday is going to be to the chances of the world number three.

He won't be able to pop over to California and check out the North Course at Torrey Pines (this year's venue) but given he found an immediate affinity with the place when winning the Farmers Insurance Open there back in 2017, that shouldn't make any difference.

Rahm knows he's found his grove so, assuming he has no symptoms from COVID, he should arrive there next week ready to roll and he's most definitely the correct favourite.

I suspect Rahm may ease slightly in the US Open market as others perform well this week and the memory of his magnificent play on Saturday starts to fade but he's a worthy favourite and the one they all have to beat.

We've got a mixed men and women's event on the European Tour this week with the inaugural Scandinavian Mixed and over on the PGA Tour event, the Palmetto Championship replaces the cancelled Canadian Open. I'll be back over the next couple of days with the previews.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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