The Punter's De-Brief: Has the Big Three become four already?

Rickie Fowler celebrates with the Deutsche Bank Championship trophy
Rickie Fowler celebrates with the Deutsche Bank Championship trophy

Steve takes a look back at last week's golf action in Moscow and Boston where there were victories for Lee Slattery and Rickie Fowler...

“With victories in the Players Championship and the Scottish Open, Fowler had already shown more mettle in the mix than we’d witnessed for years from him and now that he’s notched at a FedEx Cup event as well, the next logical step is a major win. And if he can do that next year, three will definitely become four.”

Lee Slattery won his second European Tour title on Sunday in Moscow, 105 starts and almost four years after his first. The 37-year-old Englishman is one to side with in-contention given he's now led three times after three rounds (once on the Challenge Tour and twice on the European Tour) and he's converted every time.

Over in the States, we were treated to a quite brilliant tussle for the Deutsche Bank Championship yesterday, with the eventual winner, Rickie Fowler, and runner-up, Henrik Stenson, holing putt after putt in what transpired to be a classic duel for the title.

Stenson was matched at just 1.171/6 when he led by three on the 11th tee but a two shot-swing followed when he missed the green and made bogey as Fowler made birdie. Stenson doubled his lead to two with a bounce-back birdie on the 12th from 36 feet but Fowler cut it back to one with a birdie from 38 feet two holes later before another two shot swing occurred on the 16th when Stenson found water off the tee. Having led for the very first time after 70 holes, Fowler held his nerve superbly to par the last two holes and win by a solitary stroke.

Fowler jumps from number nine in the world rankings to number five and Stenson moves up two places from eight to six. And somewhat bizarrely, after missing two cuts in-a-row for the very first time in his career, Jordan Spieth returns to the top of the rankings ahead of Rory McIlroy.

My Bets

Stakes were tiny in Russia before the off and I didn't get involved in-running so very little damage was done there and a lay of Stenson before round four put me marginally in front in Boston. It was a very quiet week and a somewhat fortunate one. I was keen on Stenson before the off and had I been on the ball last Monday I'd have backed him at over 20.019/1 so it felt a bit odd taking him on but it worked out well in the end.

What Have We learned For Next Year?

As detailed in the In-Play Blog, the main reason I took on Stenson yesterday was the awful record of 54-hole leaders at TPC Boston and although one could argue that fortune played its part to deny Stenson victory, the poor run of third round leaders has been extended further.

Adam Scott and Vijay Singh won the first two renewals in 2003 and 2004, having led by three after three rounds, but they're the only clear leaders to convert there. Someone has relinquished a lead in each of the last six years and nine men in total have failed since Singh won 11 years ago.

I don't know whether we will be returning to the Skolkovo Golf Club for the Russian Open next year but even if we're not, I'm sure we will in time so it's worth taking a quick look back on events in Moscow.

Slattery was never outside the front three all week and the first three home sat first, second and fourth with a round to go so we didn't witness an awful lot of change on the leaderboard. Nothing obvious stood out statistically but the first three all drove particularly well - both long and straight - so Total Driving may be a stat to consider in future.

Is It Now The Big Four?

In a week when the Big Three of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day all flopped, it was great to see 26-year-old Rickie Fowler fill the void. Only last week I wrote about how healthy the game was with Spieth, McIlroy and Day, who are all in their 20s, sharing out the majors and Rickie looks intent on muscling in on the act.

"I want to sneak in and be the fourth," he said after the third round in Boston and after his victory, referring to a poll back in May, that voted him one of the most overrated players, he had this to say.

"I want to be the best player in the world at some point ... But, yes, being called overrated, I won three times, so thanks for the poll, I guess."

With victories in the Players Championship (straight after the poll) and the Scottish Open, Fowler had already shown more mettle in the mix than we'd witnessed for years from him and now that he's notched at a FedEx Cup event as well, the next logical step is a major win. And if he can do that next year, three will definitely become four.

Time To Oust The Boo Boys

With Fowler and Stenson clear of the remainder, there was a real match play feel about the back nine in Boston but that didn't excuse some of the nonsense heard from the partisan crowd. Chants of U-S-A were heard on numerous occasions and it was patently obvious who they were pulling for. There's nothing wrong with that, but at times the raucous crowd were over the top. Stenson barely hit a stroke without some idiot shouting out immediately after he'd hit the ball and whether it bothered him or not, it took the gloss of what was a brilliant sporting spectacle.

There's no event on the PGA Tour this week so we've only got the KLM Open on the European Tour to concentrate on and I'll be back later today with my preview.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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