The Punter's De-Brief: Schauffele strikes gold

Golfer Xander Schauffele
Olympic champion Xander Schauffele

Daniel Gavins has won the ISPS Handa World Invitational and Xander Schauffele has won the Men's Olympics Golf tournament. Our man looks back at their victories here...

"Schauffele ultimately closed the event out nicely but we didn’t witness anywhere near such composure on the European Tour where player after player threw the title away."

South African-born golfer, Rory Sabbatini, who now represents his wife's country of birth, Slovakia, began the final round of the Men's Olympics Golf tournament trailing the 54-hole leader, Xander Schauffele, by seven strokes but it didn't take him long to eat into the deficit.

Having been matched at 1000.0 before the final round began, Sabbatini started brilliantly, playing his first eight hole in six-under-par and a bogey at the ninth didn't derail him, it merely spurred him on to make more birdies on the back-nine.

Sabbatini birdied four of his next five holes and after a dropped shot on the tough par three 16th, he finished with another two birdies to post a ten-under-par 61 - the lowest round ever recorded at the Olympics.

Having began his final round almost an hour-and-half before the leaders, Sabbatini had a long and nervy wait as the prospect of victory went from highly unlikely to perfectly possible as the main protagonists struggled on the back nine and the longer his wait went on, the shorter his price contracted.

Home hero, Hideki Matsuyama, looked the most likely man to challenge the 54-hole leader, Schauffele, when the American made a complete mess of the par five 14th.

After Matsuyama had tapped in for birdie, Schauffele needed to hole a testy bogey putt to remain tied with Sabbatini in the clubhouse and one clear of the Masters winner, Matsuyama. With Schauffele looking twitchy, the Japanese star was matched at 3.02/1 but he handed the initiative straight back to the American at the 15th when he three-putted for bogey.

Hideki gave himself a chance to get back within a stroke at the par three 16th with a terrific tee-shot but he missed his birdie putt before Schauffele then got up-and-down for birdie from the greenside bunker at the drivable par four 17th to lead by one over Sabbatini with just one hole to play.

The pre-event 12.5 chance made hard work of the final hole and Sabbatini was matched at a low of 3.55/2 before Schauffele got up-and-down for par from the fairway after a poor drive.

Although he'd threatened to wobble, Schauffele ultimately closed the event out nicely but we didn't witness anywhere near such composure at the ISPS Handa World Invitational on the European Tour where player after player threw the title away.

Third round leader and pre-event 46.045/1 chance, Jordan Smith, was matched at 1.51/2 after he'd extended his lead early on in round four with a birdie at the second hole and made another at the fourth but that was as good as it got for the Englishman. He bogeyed the fifth and triple-bogeyed the sixth before eventually finished tied for third after a dreadful four-over-par 74.

John Catlin, who had won the Irish open at the venue last year, made a big move from off the pace and he was matched at a low of 5.59/2 before a missed par putt from no more than a foot on 14 completely rattled him. He followed that with bogeys at 15 and 16 - eventually losing by the three shots dropped.

The halfway leader, Daniel Hillier, was matched at just 2.285/4 before he dropped shots at 16 and 17 to lose by two but the man that will really feel as if the title was thrown away was David Horsey, who after a two-under-par 32 on the front nine, came home in 40 to lose by a stroke!

Matched at a low of 1.454/9, the pre-event 200.0199/1 chance looked far and away the most likely winner as he started out on the back-nine but after a bogey at 11, an errant drive on 13 led to a double bogey six and he blew his chance completely on 18 when a wild drive led to a lost ball and a bogey six.

After all the drama, pre- event 140.0139/1 chance, Daniel Gavins, who had begun the final round trading at 240.0239/1 and trailing by seven, was the last man standing. The 30-year-old had never even finished inside the top-ten on the European tour before this week but his five-under-par 65 on Sunday was enough to see him lift the trophy.

Daniel Gavins.jpg

My Bets

It was a case of close but no cigar across the board this week with my sole pre-event Olympics pick, Matsuyama, just falling short, my Find Me a 100 Winner selection, Matthias Schmid, hitting a low of 11.521/2, just short of the first lay-back target of 10.09/1, and in-play picks (see In-Play Blog), Catlin and Horsey, both giving up great chances to win the ISPS Handa World Invitational.

Laying the shorties in Europe pays off yet again

We knew before the final round in Ireland began that the two main contenders, Smith and Horsey, hadn't won in a long while and they hadn't been great in-contention either, so it came as no surprise to see them wobble away their opportunities.

The European Tour doesn't appear to be as strong as it once was, and flaky finishes are pretty much the norm on a Sunday afternoon nowadays. so laying anyone than goes odds-on often pays dividends.

Only last week we witnessed Nacho Elvira trade at 1.011/100 before he missed a par putt on the 72nd hole to win the Cazoo Open so although he eventually went on take the title, beating Justin Harding in a playoff, who also traded at long odds-on, there was plenty of scope for trading. And all that happened after Finland's Mikko Korhonen had hit a low of 1.695/7. Getting stuck into the odds-on shots on the European Tour over the weekend pays off more often than not.

We've got a busy week to look forward to this week with the Hero Open on the European Tour, the Barracuda Championship on the PGA Tour, and the WGC - FedEx St Jude Invitational taking centre stage. I'll preview the three over the next couple of days.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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