Tommy Fleetwood has won the Nedbank Golf Challenge and Brendon Todd the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Our man looks back at the two events here...
"The last four winners have trailed by six, three, three and six strokes with a round to go and players going odds-on and getting beat is now commonplace. In fact, someone's gone odds-on on day one and got beat in each of the last two renewals!"
Pre-event 20.019/1 chance, Tommy Fleetwood, began the final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge trailing by fully six strokes. Matched at a high of 90.089/1 in-running, he'd been in-contention at the halfway stage but a disappointing 73 on Saturday had seen him slip back. He started nicely enough yesterday, playing the first six holes in three-under-par but he never looked like really troubling the leaders until he made back-to-back eagles at the par five ninth and tenth holes.
The third round leader, Zander Lombard, was soon treading water in round four and Thomas Detry, who began the day tied for second, was all over the shop from the start but the well-backed pre-event favourite, Louis Oosthuizen, started nicely enough, playing the first four holes in two-under-par to take up the running, and he was matched at a low of 1.664/6.
Oosthuizen appeared to be playing nicely enough but he missed a short par save on eight before deciding not to go for the green in two on the par five ninth. It looked like a negative move and although he followed a par there with a birdie four at the tenth, with others charging, the writing was on the wall and he couldn't recover from a dreadful tee-shot on the 12th, where he recorded a double-bogey six. He briefly rebounded with a nice birdie at the 13th but having been ill before the off on Thursday, he looked drained and he played the last five holes in four-over-par to finish tied for sixth.
Race to Dubai leader and pre-event 38.037/1 pick, Bernd Wiesberger, threatened with three birdies in-a-row from the tenth and he was matched at a low of just 3.02/1 but he failed to birdie the par five 14th before recording back-to-back bogeys on 15 and 16 and we were left with an intriguing duel between Fleetwood and pre-event 100.099/1 chance, Marcus Kinhult.
It was hard not to feel sorry for the young Swede. He birdied his first three holes in round four, dropped just one shot all day (at the par three seventh) and he finished four strokes ahead of everyone bar Fleetwood, who rode his luck a little. After the eagles at nine and ten, Fleetwood looked like he was drifting away again when he made back-to-back bogeys at 11 and 12 but incredibly, he made his third eagle of the day at the par five 14th before catching quite a break at 15.
Fleetwood dropped a shot at the par three 16th before parring his way in and when Kinhult missed the fairway on 17, the Englishman was matched at low of 1.121/8 to lift the trophy but to his credit, Kinhult recovered brilliantly and parred the last two holes. We were into extra time.
Fleetwood was made favourite at 1.824/5 and it was all over in no time when the Swede, who was matched at a low of 2.245/4, missed the fairway off the tee. Having chopped out sideways, he could only make a bogey five and Fleetwood made a four to win his first title in 22 months.
Having lost all of Thursday to weather, they were playing catch up all week on the PGA Tour in Mexico and the Mayakoba Classic has only just finished, with pre-event pick, Brendon Todd, winning by one.
It wasn't the straightforward affair it had looked like being after he'd birdied the 15th hole on return today, and after he'd left himself this tiddler for par on 16 to go two clear.
He was matched at just 1.111/9 when he stood over the par putt on 16 but he eventually needed to get-up-down from the rough for par to win by one.
Given he traded as short as he dd, I probably should have made a few pounds out of pre-event pick, Wiesberger, at the Nedbank but it's been a very good week anyway. In theory, it made sense to wait for him to play the par five 14th before laying anything off but it didn't work out as he could only make par there before a wayward drive on 15 cost him a bogey.
As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I layed Oosuthuizen on day one and I backed the two playoff protagonists at halfway so after numerous trades, by the time we reached extra time my book was looking good and I levelled it off to make the result an irrelevance and I did the same thing in Mexico on Sunday night.
Having two pre-event picks in-contention is always a big plus and making a nice profit was always going to be simple enough once it became clear both men had a good chance of winning. I layed both Todd and English at just a shade over 2/1 before backing Taylor and Ortiz and I finished off by laying Todd at 1.330/100 when he led by two.
With hindsight, of course I shouldn't have bothered but guaranteeing a juicy profit whatever the outcome always makes sense. If only for sanity retention purposes.
What Have We Learned This Week?
Fleetwood's win was yet another example of a fourth round bounce back. Many a winner struggles in round three before cutting loose on a Sunday with far less pressure and this was the third time Fleetwood had done so in the space of a couple of years. He lost a playoff at the Shenzhen International Open two years ago, having trailed by eight after three rounds and having fallen from fourth place to 23rd, he rallied at last year's US Open to end up finishing second, beaten by a stroke. It's quite strange that he and Francesco Molinari are such good friends because he's another player that's always worth chancing from off the pace on a Sunday. And off the pace is starting to look like a decent place to be at Sun City.
In its old, limited field, format, very few winners came from off the pace but that made sense. Not only were they small fields they were small fields containing very high-quality golfers. The very best would separate themselves from the majority in the small field and more often than not, that would be that but since the format has changed and the fields have been expanded, a new pattern had emerged...
The last four winners have trailed by six, three, three and six strokes with a round to go and players going odds-on and getting beat is now commonplace. In fact, someone's gone odds-on on day one and got beat in each of the last two renewals! It's a really tough golf course and your game can unravel fast. Just ask Louis Oosthuizen.
Over at the Mayakoba, two things I've banged on about plenty of times happened.
The market repeatedly underestimates a huge improvement in form. It's nearly always judged as a one-off and that was certainly the case with Todd given that he'd won the Bermuda Championship in emphatic style on his previous start (at another wind-affected coastal course) and I was surprised to see him trading in excess of 100.099/1. My only mistake was not checking back on Wednesday as by then he'd drifted right out to 190.0189/1! It's quite remarkable how far some players drift before the off and checking out the market again on a Wednesday is a must.
Todd was the third player to win back-to-back PGA Tour titles in a little over a year so that wasn't the reason for the huge drift. Bryson DeChambeau followed up his Northern Trust win with victory at the Dell Technologies in the FedEx Cup Playoffs and Xander Schauffele won the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Sentry Tournament of Champions in consecutive starts.
The last two winners of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, Patton Kizzire and Matt Kuchar, both went on to win the Sony Open in Hawaii so make sure Todd's on the shortlist there in the new year. He has fairly decent form figures there reading 39-13-20-44-MC and he certainly fitted the mould at the Mayakoba given he's 35 in July. The average age of the dozen winners here before him was 34.92.
I'll be back tomorrow with my previews for the final event of the European Tour season - the DP World Tour Championship - and the RSM Classic on the PGA Tour. Can Todd rack up the treble?
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