The Punter's De-Brief: Americans triumph again and Fitzpatrick gets off the mark

Matthew Fitzpatrick with his first European Tour trophy
Matthew Fitzpatrick with his first European Tour trophy

The Americans have narrowly won a dramatic Presidents Cup and Sheffield's Matthew Fitzpatrick has won his first European Tour event. Read Steve's look back at a great week of golf action here...

“It would have been perfect had the Presidents Cup been tied but maybe the brutality of the Lahiri miss and the Bae chip made it what it was - sport at its cruel and brutal best. Wayne ‘Radar’ Riley described it as, “a wonderful occasion for the game of golf worldwide.” And he wasn’t wrong.”

Although it began very early, from start to finish, yesterday was a really entertaining and enjoyable day.

Having caught and enjoyed some of the weather-delayed Presidents Cup action form Korea on Saturday morning, I made a point of getting up at five to watch the conclusion of the event yesterday and I wasn't disappointed!

The Americans had began the day a point ahead of the International Team and they were matched at just 1.041/25, with the Internationals drifting to 20.019/1, when they led in nine of the 12 matches at one stage but as it so often does in these team events, things changed dramatically and the International Team traded at a low of 1.51/2 themselves.

As the match drew to a conclusion, the entire tournament appeared to hinge on the outcome of the Chris Kirk v Anirban Lahiri match, and when they played the final hole all square, it looked highly likely that the Indian was about to take the full point to give the International Team the initiative. After both men had played three strokes on the par five finishing hole, Kirk had 15 feet for birdie and Lahiri three but incredibly, the American holed (see below) and the Indian missed.

It was sport at its very best. Triumphant and tragic at the same time - one man's career high and another's desperate low. There was a fist pump from the usually ice-cold Kirk and one could only feel sympathy for the unfortunate Lahiri. He certainly rushed the putt that would have secured half a point and ultimately tied the tournament but it was the sequence of events before it that put the spotlight firmly on him. Bubba Watson had missed the exact same putt against Thongchai Jaidee minutes earlier but that mattered not.

It was painful to watch and yet utterly compelling. It really did feel as though the event was going the way of the Internationals but those two putts changed everything and watching Sangmoon Bae desperately trying to catch Bill Hass in the final match was just as traumatic to watch.

Playing in front of his home fans and one down at the last, the Korean needed to win the final hole to tie his match and to tie the tournament. Both men missed the green before Bae duffed a chip that he really needed to hole. He fell to his knees and I wondered if he would get up again! It was every bit as painful as Lahiri's missed putt half an hour earlier.

One man's despair was another man's glory though. What a moment for Bill Hass - a captain's pick for his father! And if you think the Korean was under pressure attempting to win, Haas Snr, having put Bill out in the anchor match, had told him to go win it for his mother. Now that's pressure!

It would have been perfect had the match been tied but maybe the brutality of the Lahiri miss and the Bae chip made it what it was - sport at its cruel and brutal best. Wayne 'Radar' Riley described it as, "a wonderful occasion for the game of golf worldwide." And he wasn't wrong.

I really enjoyed it. So much so that I may even get up in the middle of the night in four years time when the event returns to Royal Melbourne for a third time and I can't wait for Liberty National in two years time.

The Americans dominance hasn't helped raise the profile of the Presidents Cup but hopefully this renewal will go a long way to putting it where it deserves to be - on at least an equal standing with the Ryder Cup.

The Presidents Cup had provided more than enough excitement for one day so it was nice to just sit back and enjoy the relative calm of the British Masters, where Paul Krishnamurty's each-way fancy, Matthew Fitzpatrick, stormed to victory at Woburn.

The 21-year-old Sheffielder trailed both Søren Kjeldsen (matched at 1.51/2) and Fabrizio Zanotti (matched at 2.3811/8) by a couple of strokes at the turn but he put the afterburners on - on the back-nine and he went on to win by two, despite bogeying the final hole.

Fitzpatrick's victory puts the each-way column more than a thousand pounds in profit for a £5 each-way stake per selection so I hope you're following!

My Bets

Having backed the International Team and drew a blank at Woburn I suffered a small loss on the week but it was by no means a disaster. I backed Branden Grace to win his match against Matt Kuchar yesterday and that was never in doubt and stakes were tiny at Woburn.

I'd tried to back Fitzpatrick at 44.043/1 before the off but hadn't got matched so I was a little greedy maybe but I've no regrets. It was an enjoyable week if not a profitable one.

How good is Matthew Fitzpatrick?

Given how accurately Fitzpatrick drives the ball, Woburn was always going to suit him and with the benefit of hindsight, I shouldn't have been so greedy. He's going to have to go off the boil quite badly for us to see odds of 40.039/1 about him in an ordinary European Tour event again and he looks to be heading for the very top.

Fitzpatrick only turned 21 last month and playing on an invite, he was the youngest player in the field last week - comparisons with Rory McIlroy are reasonable. Rory won his first European Tour event at the 36th attempt - the British Masters was Fitzpatrick's 25th European Tour start.

Rory won the Dubai Desert Classic at 19 years and 9 months - a bigger event at a younger age - but he'd had more time to adjust to life on Tour. Fitzpatrick is the first rookie to win on the European Tour since Pablo Larrazabal caused an almighty shock at the Open de France in 2008.

I get the distinct feeling that the likes of Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, and maybe even Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter are on the wane but in Matthew Fitzpatrick we have another true British master more than ready to move in to the big time. What really impresses me is his temperament under pressure. It's better than Rory's was at this stage in his development and if he can kick on soon and double his tally the sky's the limit.

We're off to the Algarve on the European Tour this week for the Portugal Masters and in the States, the 2015/16 PGA Tour kicks off at the Open. I'll be back later today or tomorrow with my previews.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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