The Punter's De-Brief: Major champs show their mettle

Golfer Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka with the Phoenix Open trophy

Dustin Johnson has won his second Saudi International and Brooks Koepka his second Phoenix Open. Steve Rawlings looks back at the two tournaments here...

"Brooks Koepka, a pre-event 50.049/1 chance who was matched at a high of 180.0179/1 in-running, birdied five of the last six on Saturday to get within five of the lead going into round four and he finished in similar fashion yesterday."

Having been matched at a low of 1.528/15 during round three, Dustin Johnson went into the fourth and final round of the Saudi International with a two-stroke lead. He putted poorly on Sunday, by his own brilliant standards, and he was caught late on by Tony Finau, who was matched at a low of 2.3611/8, but DJ never really looked like losing.

Finau, a pre-event 17.5 chance, bogeyed 16 and 17 having got to the front and my Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Victor Perez, double-bogeyed the par three 16th when trailing by a stroke. DJ also dropped a shot at the tough 16th but it made no difference. The pre-tournament 6.611/2 chance, who was matched at a high of 8.88/1, birdied the short par four 17th and parred the last to win by two.

Saudi wasn't a dull affair but it wasn't anywhere near as dramatic as the finish we witnessed in Phoenix.

With the joint third round leaders, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth, both starting slowly, pre-event 400.0399/1 chance, James Hahn, who had begun the final day trailing by five and trading at 150.0149/1, started like a scolded cat and when he rolled in his sixth birdie of the round at the 10th to move three clear, he was matched at a low of 2.01/1.

Had Hahn parred his way in, he'd have finished level with the winner, but he lost his way badly after the 10th, finding water off the tee twice. He played the final eight holes in four-over-par to eventually finish 10th.

As Hahn faltered, Xander rallied and he was matched at a low of 1.664/6 but he too stumbled late on. The well-fancied pre-tournament 12.5 chance, who had been matched at just 1.75/7 during the third round, bogeyed the 14th after a poor drive and just when he looked to have got back into contention with back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16, he drove into the water at 17.

Scottie Scheffler, Louis Oosthuizen and K.H Lee all threatened to take the title and after a really slow start (+3 after 11), Spieth rallied and was matched in-running at just 3.1511/5 before he too found water off the tee on the drivable par four 17th, and that was where the event was won.

Brooks Koepka, a pre-event 50.049/1 chance, who was matched at a high of 180.0179/1 in-running, birdied five of the last six on Saturday to get within five of the lead going into round four and he finished in similar fashion yesterday. After three birdies in-a-row from the 13th and a par three at the 16th, he produced this bit of magic to put the event to bed on 17.


My Bets

It would have been lovely to have seen both Victor Perez and James Hahn win yesterday but it's been a cracking week thanks to the pair.

Perez, who I backed before the off at 120.0119/1, finished the Saudi poorly and never really looked like turning DJ over but he was matched at a low of 5.04/1 and I used reclaimed stakes from him on both Koepka and Hahn in Phoenix prior to the final round.

As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, the Phoenix Open has been a graveyard for third round leaders of late, so I layed Xander and Spieth before round four and, having backed Hahn at halfway at 95.094/1, I modestly topped up on him at 150.0149/1, as well as backing Brooks for a few pounds at 46.045/1.

I layed Hahn a couple of times, at 3.613/5 and then 2.3411/8, and while I didn't get him in the book at his lowest price, and I would have preferred him to win, he made for a terrific back-to-lay vehicle.

There were a myriad of other trades made as the event came to a fruition and far too many to mention but the chip-in by Brooks was the icing on the cake. He too was layed back, but not before he reached 1.21/5 and, for a change, I don't have any complaints.

Rasmus catches the eye again

Although the likes of David Horsey and Soren Kjeldsen contended at the Saudi International, and last year's winner, Graeme McDowell, isn't a huge hitter, length off the tee is most definitely advantageous in order to find the requisite number of greens in regulation required to set up enough birdie chances.

The front three had a Putting Average ranking of just 27th, 44th and 46th but they ranked third, 16th and 13th for Driving Distance and third, first and 15th for Greens In Regulation.

Once again, the winner was up with the pace throughout but I wouldn't rule out an off the pace winner here if the wind really picked up. It's a very exposed track and there didn't appear to be a huge difference in the weather encountered by the opposing sides of the draw and yet there was a differential in the scoring of 4.3 strokes over the first two rounds. Which makes Rasmus Hojgaard's tied sixth even more impressive.

The top-five were all drawn AM-PM and Hojgaard and the world number 13, Viktor Hovland, were the only players from the wrong side of the draw to finish inside the top-10 and within five of DJ. As highlighted in last week's De-Brief, the 19-year-old Dane is still only learning about links style and desert style golf and his future is incredibly bright.

Scottsdale set-up perfect for trading

We've now seen just two 54-hole leaders go on to win the Phoenix Open in the last 12 years and both of them were a long way in front. Phil Mickelson in 2013 and Rickie Fowler two years ago, were six and four shots ahead with a round to go.

TPC Scottsdale has a fabulous back-nine that creates all sorts of drama. The 11th, 12th and 14th are all tricky but there are eagle chances at the two par fives, the 13th and the 15th, and at the drivable par four 17th. But with water in-play on all three, the variation in scoring is wide and a volatile betting market is almost guaranteed. If you're on your game, like Brooks was over the weekend, you can finish very strongly (he played the last six holes in 11-under-par!) but a winning chance can soon be derailed off the tee.

Brooks is the sixth multiple winner of the event this century so course form clearly stands up nicely and I'd definitely forgive Justin Thomas his disappointing finish this time around. After back-to-back thirds, Thomas was nicely poised to go two places better this time around but his grandad died on Saturday and that clearly affected his play in round four.

And finally, Finau was once again poor in-the-mix, making a bogey at 17 after electing not to go for the green off the tee on the short par four following a bogey at the par three 16th but he wasn't the only one to stumble...

Schauffele, who alongside Spieth, was three clear of the field in Phoenix, was most unconvincing again and he's now zero from five when leading with a round to go.

There's no European Tour action this week but we do have the AT&T Pebble Beach to look forward to on the PGA Tour so I'll be back later today or tomorrow with my preview.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open account using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn We'll Refund You £/€20 If the Bet Loses

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles