The Punter's De-Brief: Rafa rallies to claim the spoils

Golfer Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Rafa Cabrera-Bello with the Open de España trophy

Rafa Cabrera-Bello won the Open de España in extra time and Sungjae Im trounced the field in Las Vegas. Our man looks back at their respective wins and all the market moves...

Rahm was desperately unlucky to have to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament after round three due to a positive Covid test when leading by six but, since his victory at Torrey Pines two weeks later, he’s traded at odds-on in four events and been beaten.

Three different Spaniards traded at odds-on at the Open de España as we were treated to an intriguing finale and a 73rd hole.

World number one Jon Rahm, who was bidding to win the event for the third time in-a-row, was backed down from 4.216/5 to 3.211/5 before the off. He was then matched at odds-on after only four completed holes of round one and he hit a low of 1.645/8, after he'd played his first eight holes in six-under-par.

He slowed up a bit after that, but he still went into the weekend trading at around 1.75/7 despite trailing the halfway leader, Will Besseling, by a stroke. He began round three one and two strokes ahead of the eventual playoff protagonists, Adri Arnaus and Rafa Cabrera-Bello, but rounds of 72-69 saw him drift out of contention and he eventually finished tied for 17th.

It was a tricky leaderboard to assess with a round to go and, although Cabrera-Bello led by a couple of strokes, he had a poor record from the front, failing to convert eight 54-hole leads or co-leads in-a-row, and he gave back his advantage at the very first hole in round four, recording a double-bogey six at the first.

His nearest pursuers through 54-holes, Arnaus and Julien Guerrier, also dropped shots early on in round four and it looked for a while like someone may close from off the pace before firstly Arnaus, and then Cabrera-Bello, both composed themselves and dominated the back-nine.

Arnaus, who was well tipped-up and backed down from 60.059/1 to 40.039/1 before the off, was trading at around 1.42/5 when he eagled the par five 14th to go one clear of Cabrera-Bello. However, the two were tied again after the pre-tournament 110.00109/1 chance responded with a birdie three at 15.

Matching pars followed at 16 and 17 but, after a poor drive by Cabrera-Bello at the 18th, Arnaus' priced dipped to just 1.232/9.

Cabrera-Bello's tee-shot hit the cart path wide of the 18th fairway and rolled back around 100 yards into the rough. Arnaus found the greenside bunker with his drive. Cabrera-Bello looked in big trouble, but he received a slightly dubious drop and just cleared the trees in front of him, finishing in the same bunker as Arnaus with his second shot.

Arnaus hit an average bunker shot and missed the birdie putt and Cabrera-Bello hit a cracking third and tapped in for par. We were into extra-time, the market flipped again, making Cabrera-bello the slight favourite, and the market was right to do so. Here he is holing his putt for a birdie three and the title at the first extra hole.

Cabrera-Bello was a similar winner to Danny Willett last week at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Both had been placed in the event previously, both were former Ryder Cuppers, both went off at triple-figure odds and both had endured difficult years on the course.

Cabrera-Bello has just lost his card on the PGA Tour and, having finished fourth in the Abu Dhabi Championship way back in January, his highest finish since had been 20th at the Korn Ferry Championship.

He was very hard to fancy given only last week he'd missed the cut behind Willett after shooting 77 around St Andrews on Saturday. His 40 on the back-nine at the home of golf was hardly a pointer, although he had birdied the 18th!

Searing-hot Sungjae dominates in the desert

Over on the PGA Tour, it looked like we might get an exciting finale at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open but the halfway leader Sungjae Im, who had finished 51st, seventh, 12th and 12th on the previous four occasions he'd lead through 36 holes, bounced back after a disappointing third round to pulverise the field.

His 70 on Saturday had seen him drift from 4.77/2 and one clear to 11.521/2 and three off the lead with 18 to play but he started his final round like a man possessed.

Having parred the eighth after playing the first seven holes in four-under-par, Im put the event to bed with five birdies in-a-row from the ninth and he eventually went on to win by four.

Matthew Wolff, who like the winner, was a 44.043/1 chance before the off, hit a low of 2.588/5 after back-to-back birdies at five and six but after he'd birdied the par five ninth for the fourth day in-a-row, he hit a poor drive at 10 and made bogey and that was effectively that.

Last week's Sanderson Farms Championship winner, Sam Burns, had hit a low of 1.9310/11 during Saturday's third round but he ran out of steam after hitting the front and he eventually finished tied for 14th.

My Bets

Having backed Rahm before the off at average of 3.9, and both Burns and Wolff in-running at 4.94/1 and 12.011/1 respectively (see In-Play Blog), it would have been a decent week had I traded more. All three traded considerably shorter than what I'd backed them at but but I didn't get too involved.

I fiddled about in-running at the Open de España on the back-nine yesterday, when it was clearly a two-man race, and I managed to claw a bit back there, thanks to initially backing Cabrera-Bello when the market overreacted to Arnaus' eagle. He touched 3.55/2 momentarily despite only trailing by a stroke and being clear of the remainder, but it's been a pretty rubbish week overall.

Is Rahm starting to be unreliable?

Jon Rahm's defeat last week is the latest in a string of disappointing finishes this summer and although he won the US Open in June, he's been expensive to follow.

He was desperately unlucky to have to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament after round three due to a positive Covid test when leading by six but since his victory at Torrey Pines two weeks later, he's traded at odds-on in four events and he's been beaten every time.

Rahm pointing.jpg

Prior to last week's disappointing finish in Madrid, he was matched at 1.4640/85 during round two of the Scottish Open in July (finished seventh), as low as 1.21/5 at the Northern trust (finished third) and he finished second at the Tour Championship in September, having been matched at 1.68/13 in-running.

In addition, Rahm was matched at around 6/4 in-running at the BMW Championship before a frustrating weekend saw him finish ninth and he's starting to look a little unreliable.

He's already a warm favourite to win this week's Andalucía Masters but anyone taking the odds of around 4.57/2 should be readying themselves to lay some back in-play if the last few months are any sort of a guide.

I'll be back later today or tomorrow with my preview for that event and I'll be back tomorrow with a look a the CJ Cup on the PGA Tour.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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