The Punter's De-Brief: Alex the Great moves into the top-ten with season win number four

Alex Noren with the Nedbank trophy
Alex Noren with the Nedbank trophy

Alex Noren has won his fourth title in four months and Pat Perez his second in almost 400 PGA Tour starts. Read Steve's customary look back at all last week's golf action here...

"A week after halfway leader, Rod Pampling, had rebounded nicely to win the Shriners after a disappointing level par effort in round three, Noren bounced back spectacularly to win the Nedbank after a woeful three-over-par effort on Saturday."

On an incredible final day in South Africa, Alex Noren won the Nedbank Golf Challenge by a remarkable six strokes after a nine-under-par 63 around the Gary Player Country Club. The 34-year-old Swede, who is now up to number nine in the Official World Rankings, had begun the fourth and final round six strokes adrift of South Korean outsider, Jeunghun Wang, but Noren had caught and passed Wang by the turn.

The Korean started well enough and he was matched at around 1.330/100 after he'd birdied two of his first four holes but a bogey at the fifth hampered his progress and with Noren firing in birdie after birdie, Wang was soon in trouble. He got to within two strokes after a birdie at the par five 14th but he never really looked like getting to Noren who was simply superb and he's now won four titles in four months.

Over at the OHL Classic, 40-year-old Pat Perez, whose grandfather was Mexican, won the year's only event on Mexican soil by three strokes. Perez was looking for only his second win on the PGA Tour in what was his 379th start and he began the week at around 150.0149/1 but with nobody putting him under any sort of pressure after he'd started round four well, he was able to win with ease despite playing the back-nine in over-par.

Perez looked like losing his fragile temper after a bogey at the 12th hole and Scott Piercy, who I backed modestly before the final round at 5.04/1, was matched at a low of 2.6813/8 but just when he looked like pressing Perez, Piercy went and bogeyed the easy par five 13th form position A on the fairway.

My Bets

Yet Again, an in-running wager on Alex Noren has provided the week's profits. I backed the Swede during the opening round at an average of 11.010/1 and even though I gave a bit back in Mexico, it was still a welcome profitable week.

I've no regrets about how I played the OHL Classic. I'd written in the In-Play Blog that I thought the leaderboard looked collectively vulnerable and that proved to be the case. I backed a number of players at big odds early on but nobody managed to put any heat on Perez. That was a disappointment because he can be flaky and he looked ripe for a meltdown but at no stage did anyone get to within more than two strokes of him. As soon as anyone made a few steps forward they immediately shot themselves in the foot with a mistake.

What Have We Learned This Week?

We witnessed the first ever hole-in-one at the Nedbank Golf Challenge this year but with a bumper field of 72 competing for the first time at Sun City, there were more than twice as many players attempting to make an ace than in any of the last three years. And although it dates back to 1981, prior to 2013, only 12 competitors played in the event so we have to view the tournament very differently now.

Prior to the off, I prioritised course form over everything else. The Gary Player Country Club is a tricky venue that used to take some getting to know. When Danny Willett took the title in 2014, he was the first debutant to succeed in 28 years but the two winners since Danny - Marc Leishman and Noren - were both first timers also. As was this year's runner-up, Wang.

I'm still going to give previous course form plenty of credence but it's clearly not as important as it was when it was an invitation only event for a dozen competitors.

Over at the OHL Classic, Gary Woodland, who was matched at a low of 1.625/8 during round three on Saturday, before he double-bogeyed the par thee 15th, became the fifth third round leader in-a-row to get beat.

Keep Looking out for Bounce-Back Winners

A week after halfway leader, Rod Pampling, had rebounded nicely to win the Shriners after a disappointing level par effort in round three, Noren bounced back spectacularly to win the Nedbank after a woeful three-over-par effort on Saturday.

It's a drum that I've beaten soundly before but it's well worth reiterating given both men were written off after round three and both rewarded backers at juicy double-figure prices.

The Race to Dubai ends this week with the DP World Championship, where Henrik Stenson, Willett, Noren or Rory McIlroy will be crowned the R2D winner and I'll be back later with my preview.

The PGA Tour moves on to Georgia for the RSM Classic where Kevin Kisner will look to defend and I'll be back tomorrow with my preview for that one.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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