We witnessed plenty of drama at the last two renewals of the Porsche European Open at the Green Eagle Course and we looked set for an exciting finale this time around with a round to go but it didn't quite materialise.
After last year's final round, when the course was arguably verging on unfair on Sunday, this year's set-up was much kinder. Tees were moved forward and when the wind failed to get up, the course was very scorable. Austria's Bernd Wiesberger and his playing partner, Romain Wattel, both fired eight-under-par 64s and the Austrian birdied seven holes in eight in-between the eighth and the 15th. It wasn't the test I'd hoped it might be.
The two men who had begun the day tied for the lead, Robert McIntyre and Bernd Ritthammer, both shot four-under-par 68s but it wasn't enough to deny the favourite before the final round - Paul Casey.
The world number 17, who was a 10.09/1 chance before the off, had began the final round trailing by one and he kept tabs with the leaders with the minimum of fuss with birdies at two, six and eight and he went odds-on for the first time when he hit it close at 13. Casey tapped in there to hit the front but with McIntyre and Ritthammer refusing to buckle, after a pair of pars at the 14th and the easy par five 15th, and a very poor wedge shot on the par five 16th, it looked like odds-on backers were going to get their fingers burnt.
Casey's wedge shot on the par five 16th left him fully 35 feet from the hole and as a layer, I was confident of being able to turn my book green but then this happened.
Casey followed that birdie with another at the par three 17th but he was unable to birdie the 18th to make sure of victory. The par five 18th only measures 517 yards and it was the easiest on the course in round four, averaging just 4.41, but having hit a decent drive, Casey was too cautious with his second shot and although he found the green, he was a very long way from the hole and he three-putted for par.
Playing behind Casey, Ritthammer needed a birdie at the last to tie the lead but he took the strange decision to take an iron off the tee and to take reaching the green in two out of the equation. He then proceeded to lay up in to the rough! The 32-year-old German, who had been a 1000.0 chance before the off, was playing in his 100th European Tour event and despite his poor lay-up, he still gave himself a chance of taking the event to a playoff when his third ran past the hole to around 25 feet.
McIntyre had stood on the 18th tee two strokes behind Casey so he needed an eagle to tie but he found the green in two so both men had putts to tie. Both left their putts short!
My pre-event 120.0119/1 pick, Guido Migliozzi, hit a low of 6.05/1 on Saturday afternoon and after a poor finish to round three, he rallied early on - on Sunday, playing the first 11 holes in five-under-par but back-to-back bogeys at 12 and 13 stunted his progress and that was that.
As detailed in the In-Play Blog, after Paul Casey had hit the front in round one, I set about building a lay book and I feel like I was a little hard-done-by in the end.
In addition to the lays detailed in the blog, I layed Wiesberger and McIntyre for one unit apiece at 7.26/1 and 2.265/4 before laying Casey again for two units at 1.75/7 (as he played the 13th). That meant he was my only loser and I was happy enough with my lot after he failed to birdie 15 and after his poor wedge shot on 16 so that putt on 16 was a bitter pill to swallow.
Ritthammer shortened up to a low of 3.711/4 when he drew level with Casey with a birdie of his own on the 16th and with hindsight I should have reduced my losses by getting him in the book too. If I had known he'd shortened up so much as a result of his birdie at 16, I would have layed him but the price dipped before we'd seen him tap in for birdie and before we'd seen Casey hole his 10/12 foot birdie putt on 17. I assumed (incorrectly) that the price drop was due to Casey missing rather than Ritthammer holing his three-footer and that was a misjudgement.
It was frustrating to spend so much time on the event and to end up losing but it was far from a disaster.
What Have we Learned This Week?
Green Eagle is monstrously long with five par fives but last year's stats suggested it was far from a bomber's paradise and this year's result confirmed that.
Casey ranked 12th for Driving Distance but the next four on the leaderboard only ranked 23rd, 31st, 48th and 19th and Driving Accuracy appears far more important than distance. The first five home ranked eighth, fourth, tenth, 17th and second for D.A but the most important stat to ponder next year could be Greens In Regulation.
The top three in the GIR rankings finished fifth, first and second and Wattel, who finished sixth, ranked fifth for GIR. There's water in-play all over the track so trouble awaits and after a dry summer, the rough wasn't even that brutal this year, so finding fairways may be even more important going forward if the rough is up.
The European Tour makes the short hop from Hamburg to Amsterdam for the KLM Open this week and the 2019-20 PGA Tour season kicks off in West Virginia with the snappily-named A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. I'll be previewing the two events on Tuesday.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter