Our man takes his customary look back at all last week's golf action where we saw two men return to the winner's enclosure for the first time in quite a while...
“The players were universally impressed by the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj in Oman and I hope we get a stronger field next year because the venue deserves it.”
It was a week of reawakening on the two main tours last week. Joost Luiten, a 28.027/1 chance before the off, returned to the winner's enclosure for the first time in 17 months, with a straightforward two-stroke victory at the Oman Open to claim his sixth European Tour win, and Bubba Watson, who traded between 80.079/1 and 90.089/1 pre-event, won his tenth PGA Tour title, exactly two years after his ninth with his third Genesis Open title at Riviera.
Both men had led after round three and both went on to win by two strokes, with nobody else in either field trading at odds-on. Chris Wood was the closest challenger to Luiten and he hit a low of 2.35/4 and Patrick Cantlay, who lead at the turn at Riviera, traded at a low 2.3611/8.
My pre-event picks were poor at both events but as detailed in the In-Play blog, I backed Luiten at halfway at 17.016/1 and Bubba at the same stage at 17.5 so it ended-up being a nice week.
I adjusted my book before round four in Oman and made a few plays in-running to make sure I made a profit. I backed both Robert Rock and Seungsu Han in-running and I layed the Dutchman back at long odds-on but I needn't have bothered. There was a bit of a wobble on the front-nine, when he bogeyed holes seven and eight, but he played the remaining holes in a bogey-free three-under-par and he always looked the most likely winner on the back-nine.
Out-of-form Chris Wood, who began the week trading at around 100.099/1 (matched at a high of 130.0129/1) pressed hardest but, as he'd done on Saturday, he didn't play the last two holes well and Luiten coasted home after a lengthy birdie at 16.
A victory earlier in the day often changes the mentality and having been out all day with the family, I didn't rush home to get stuck in to trading the Genesis Open. If the truth be told, as had been the case for most of the week, I thought it looked a confusing event to trade anyway so delaying further involvement made sense. Especially after the Luiten win.
I waited until Scott Stallings had landed safely on the 16th green before making a start by getting him onside at 9.617/2 but I should have waited a few minutes more. Everything changed when this happened to Bubba at the par three 14th.
There was a bit of fortune about the birdie at 14 but I wasn't complaining. Watson's price collapsed and I layed him back at 1.68/13 to ensure a nice profit for the week.
What Have We Learned This Week?
The players were universally impressed by the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj in Oman and I hope we get a stronger field next year because the venue deserves it.
It was described as linksy and if the leaderboard throughout the week was anything to go by, it certainly was. Chris Wood is going to be well worth following next year given he turned up in no sort of form and he wasn't the only out-of-form links specialist to shine.
Robert Rock, who hit a low of 5.04/1 in-running has a proven links pedigree, as does Stephen Gallagher and Matthew Southgate (both tied ninth) and we even saw the badly out-of-form former Open Champ, Darren Clarke, get in-contention early on.
The winner, Luiten, like Clarke, is a winner at the linksy Kennemer, so course form there will need to be considered going forward and I'll analyse results at Genzon again. I thought there might be a link between the home of the Shenzhen International and this event given the two courses have the same grass type (Paspalum) and the fact that Luiten finished second at Genzon two years ago possibly proves I was on to something.
Although it didn't come off yesterday, I timed my bet on Stallings perfectly at Riviera and it's worth bearing in mind if you're trading in-running in future. The 18th is a tough hole, and Stallings ended up bogeying it but so too are holes 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. Stallings was ahead of all the other contenders on the course and so once he'd safely negotiated the tee shot on 16, with the very scorable par five 17th to come, he was over-priced at 9.617/2.
Once Bubba had holed his bunker shot on 14, Stallings drifted right out to double figures again but not before he'd dipped to around 6.05/1 simply because he's made a straightforward two-putt par on 16. With hindsight, I could and, as it transpired, should have layed him back but that's easy to say now. To some degree that's irrelevant though, the point I'm making is that the market was slow to react to the fact that Stallings, in relation to those on the same score, was over-priced given he was through the tough holes and they had them still to play.
The European Tour skips from Oman to Qatar for the Qatar Masters and the PGA Tour switches from west to east for the Honda Classic and I'll be back today or tomorrow with my previews.
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