The Punter's De-Brief: Outsiders bounce back to win on both Tours
Outsiders have won both the Oman Open on the European Tour and the Honda Classic on the PGA Tour. Our man looks back at both tournaments here...
"Both this week’s tournaments were similar and as a result, both panned out correspondingly. Wind was a factor at both venues and scoring was tough. Mistakes were made by everyone and having shots in the locker roved priceless for both victors."
Kityama comes out on top as nerves strike in Oman
The second edition of the Oman Open was a bit disjointed after we lost most of Friday's play to high winds and sandstorms but the finale was quite something and extremely entertaining, with five players trading at [2.28] and below.
Denmark's J.B Hansen, a pre-tournament [120.0] shot, finished tamely but not before he was matched at a low of [2.28] and Fabrizio Zanotti, a pre-event [75.0] chance, hit [2.04] when he gave himself a great chance for birdie at the par five 16th but he four-putted to chalk a seven! That was his third double-bogey of the final round and he finished up losing by a stroke. Max Kieffer, a [300.0] shot, hit a low of [1.5] as he played the 16th and after birdying 17, Clement Sordet, who was a [55.0] chance before the off, hit [1.9] before he missed his par putt on 18 when leading by a stroke.
It was a typical Sunday finish on the European Tour with nerves having their say and with everyone else playing 'pass the trophy', 26-year-old Californian, Kurt Kitayama, pounced late with birdies at 16 and 17 to claim his second European Tour title in just 11 starts.
Despite his victory in Mauritius eight starts ago, Kitayama began the week as a [250.0] chance after three missed cuts in-a-row and he was even matched at a high of [1000.0] for a few pounds before the off. Having led after round one, Kitayama got caught up in the worst of the weather before the suspension on Friday but as you'll see below, despite his misfortune, he kept his cool and he eventually began round three just one off the lead.
He may have kept his cool on Friday but he couldn't have started round three much worse on Saturday, playing the first three holes in six-over-par! He drifted right out to [400.0] after that and he was matched at high of [65.0] during round four following dropped shots on seven and 11 before the late rally.
Late birdie blast seals win for Mitchell
Over on the PGA Tour, halfway leader, Keith Mitchell, was the unlikely victor of the Honda Classic. The pre-tournament [300.0] chance, who touched [400.0] before the off, was tied for the lead after 36 holes and he looked like heading into Sunday with the lead before playing the last ten holes of round three in two-over-par. He began the final round trailing by a stroke and despite bogeying the first two holes on on Sunday, he bounced back nicely to make the turn in level-par but after a bogey at 11, his challenge looked to have petered out and he was matched at a high of [140.0].
It was another fascinating final round with all sorts of twists and turns and a number of players traded at short prices before ultimately coming up short. Ryan Palmer, a [200.0] shot before the off, who was matched at [1000.0] on day one after he played his first seven holes in three-over-par, was matched at just [2.3].
Having begun the final round fully seven strokes off the lead, and having teed off more than three hours before the leaders, Palmer flew through the field and when he gave himself a six-footer to post -8 for the day and for his tournament total, it looked like he might post an unpassable target but he missed the birdie putt and had to settle for a seven-under-par 63.
Brooks Koepka then hit a low of [1.75] after he birdied 16 and 18 to pass Palmer and when Rickie Fowler birdied three of the last four holes to equal Koepka's score, he was matched at only [3.05], having looked to have no chance before this miraculous birdie on 17.
The script looked like it had been written perfectly with Koepka and Fowler set to decide the outcome in extra-time but Keith Mitchel was having none of it. He must have thought his chance had gone after his bogey at the 11th but he birdied three of his next four to tie the lead before calmly stroking in this 15-footer for birdie at the last to post -9 and to win by one.
It's been a poor week, thanks mainly to a bad bet made yesterday morning in Oman. A couple of my pre-event picks there were doing OK at halfway and I had high hopes for both Brandon Stone and Gaganjeet Bhullar, who sat just one off the lead through 36 holes but both disappointed badly.
Stone had looked imperious in the wind on Saturday and he was the [6.6] favourite when I went to bed on Saturday night. I thought I'd wake up on Sunday morning to have two really good chances but when conditions improved on Sunday Stone came back to finish off round three by shooting 80 and Bhullar wasn't a great deal better! The Indian kept himself in-the-mix early on but he finished round three with two bogeys in his last four holes to fall to seventh with around to go before shooting 78 in round four!
With hindsight, I should have got laying on Sunday morning but instead I waited and waited and messed it up. On several occasions I went to back the winner but didn't and then I foolishly jumped in on Sordet when he safely landed his approach on to the final green. I thought [2.3] was a very fair price given he was leading and that he's at least make a playoff with a par four to finish but he three-putted for bogey just before Kitayama birdied the 17th from distance and that was that.
I pulled a bit back at the Honda but not as much as I should. None of my pre-tournament outsiders contended but in-play pick, Koepka, certainly gave me a run for my money and I backed Palmer at [22.0] in-running after he's birdied the 16th. I layed both back modestly but I should have had a much better week given the way both events panned out.
What Have We Learned This Week
It looked highly likely that we were going to get a fourth well-fancied, high-class winner in-a-row at the Honda, following victories for Adam Scott (2016) Rickie Fowler (2017) and Justin Thomas (2018), when Koepka and Fowler posted the clubhouse lead but instead we witnessed yet another huge outsider winning - the eighth in 13 editions at PGA National. We seem to get either a complete upset or a very well-fancied winner here so avoiding all those priced between around [30.0] and [200.0] may be the way forward.
Mitchell ranked second for Scrambling and Lucas Glover, who finished tied for fourth, ranked number one so for eight of the last nine years the top scrambler has placed and that's clearly an important stat but putting on Bermuda is arguably the key, and it probably explains why so many outsiders win.
Mitchell had form figures coming in to the event reading MC-16-MC-73-MC-MC with the only decent effort being in Hawaii at the Sony Open, on Bermuda, where he sat third at halfway, and he had this to say at the halfway stage last week.
"I love Bermuda. I'm sorry, I hate Poa Annua so much I can't even see straight. Thankfully the first event back on Bermuda. I'm playing every Bermuda event we've got this year."
Both this week's tournaments were similar and as a result, both panned out correspondingly. Wind was a factor at both venues and scoring was tough. Mistakes were made by everyone and having shots in the locker roved priceless for both victors.
Having led after the opening round in Oman, Kitayama was matched at a high of [400.0] in-play on several occasions between Saturday afternoon and the early hours of Sunday morning and Mitchell was matched at a high of [140.0] on Sunday. And that wasn't the first time a Honda winner had been on the premises all weekend and traded at a high price in-running on Sunday...
Mitchell led after round two and he was only one back through 54 holes and when Padraig Harrington won here four years ago, he was matched at over [200.0] in round four after a slow start. Like Mitchell, Pod had been in-contention throughout - ending each round inside the top-three places and he was never more than three off the lead in between rounds.
Mistakes are going to happen and so too are bounce-backs. Placing in-play backs at huge prices on the early pace-setter may be an angle-in for a bit of fun for low stakes.
We've got two cracking events again this week with the Qatar Masters on the European Tour and the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the States, where Tiger Woods is bidding to win the title for an incredible ninth time. I'll be back tomorrow with my previews.
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