Cameron Champ emerged from the pack to claim victory on the PGA Tour but Nacho Elvira endured a wild ride before clinching a first win on the European. Matt Cooper provides the de-brief...
"If it was all a little chaotic from Nacho Elvira, his post-round interview was lovely."
There was something wonderfully simple and straightforward about Cameron Champ's third victory on the PGA Tour in last week's 3M Open, calling to mind a perfectly run middle distance track race.
He opened with a solid 69 that had him five back of the lead, a second round 67 got him one shot closer the pace, a repeat of that score on Saturday had him two back, right on the shoulder of the leaders, then he smoothed his way past them all with a bogey-free 66 on the final lap.
That fourth round had started with 21 players within four blows of Cameron Tringale's lead and a few of them flirted with the idea of winning, but Champ more or less snuffed them out.
The 26-year-old had dropped a hint. He'd started the final round in his previous start at Deere Run in exactly the same position, two back, but a level-par 71 had seen him finish T11th. He was still available to back at 120.0119/1 ahead of last week's first round.
By Friday morning, following opening laps of 64, Rickie Fowler and Jhonattan Vegas contested favouritism on 9.08/1 and 9.617/2 respectively. Fowler would quickly disappear out of the top 20, Vegas hung around all week and had a good tilt at the title in the final round, leading at one stage on Sunday. He was matched at a high of 100.099/1 for the week and a low of 2.8415/8.
By Saturday evening Tringale had reached the top, but punters were always wary of the man with over 300 starts on the PGA Tour and no win. He'd started the week priced 40.039/1, dropped to 18.5 by sitting in the top 10 heading into the weekend and was 4.77/2 ahead of the final lap. He was matched at a low of 3.02/1 but the market got him right and he eventually wilted.
Louis Oosthuizen made an interesting case. He spent the whole week in the top 20, but only on Sunday did he make genuine progress through the field. He never really looked like winning but he was matched at a high of 500.0499/1 and a low of 4.03/1.
So Champ prevailed. Despite that solid opening he was 190.0189/1 at the start of the second round and ended it 60.059/1. He was 17.016/1 at the start of last round and whoever backed him at 700.0699/1 during the first round will have had few worries about him on the back nine on Sunday.
Nacho recovers to win play-off
The story on the other side of the Atlantic could hardly have been more contrasting.
Nacho Elvira more or less lapped the field, then ground to a halt, allowed them to catch him, whereupon he was magically revived, reclaimed the lead, tripped up near the finishing line, but then so did his nearest rival, allowing him to sort of crawl on hands and knees to the tape.
If it was all a little chaotic, his post-round interview was lovely, admitting his nerves, shaking with relief, and dedicating the win to the family of Celia Barquin, the Spanish golfer killed three years ago. Bravo Nacho.
He had begun the week with no form whatsoever, indeed no top 50 since the first event of 2021 and priced 420.0419/1 (backed at a high of 520.0519/1).
He opened with a 64 to tie the first round lead and then added a Friday morning 67 which had him 3.55 in the afternoon.
When a Saturday 66 opened up a six-shot advantage over the chasing pack he was 1.538/15 and had been matched as low as 1.330/100.
"What did you do to those watching?" he was asked after the win.
"What did I do yo myself?" he gasped.
What did he do to those who backed him at those prices?!
Because on Sunday that lead, and his composure, had slowly dwindled.
He made three front nine bogeys, but also atoned with three par breakers. The back nine started with four pars and another dropped shot.
The chasers were splashing red across the scoreboard and fear all through the leader.
He was trading at above 2.01/1 midway through the front nine when Callum Shinkwin got within two of him and from that point on the leaderboard and trading was volatile.
Justin Harding was available at 28.027/1 at the start of the week and 13.5 on Sunday morning. He pressed and pressed. So too did Mikko Korhonen, priced 44.043/1 Wednesday and 15.5 before the final round.
Both multiple winners, they looked hungry in the chase and their prices dropped as their chances of winning rose.
Perhaps the most wild in-play price was my pre-event pick Callum Shinkwin.
He started the event trading at 100.099/1 and was double that after a slow start to the week. A Saturday 63 got him in the final group and early in that final round he was matched at 4.1.
Late in the day, when he failed to make ground at the short par-4 15th, he was suddenly matched at 1000.0 only to then birdie the difficult 16th and be backed again at 26.025/1.
Elvira had apparently recovered at this stage and needed only to par the last. He found the green and it appeared job done. But the birdie putt dribbled down the hill, to a horrible length, and the par putt was a nightmarish stab that never looked like going in.
Forced into a play-off with Harding, the South African was unsurprisingly judged favourite: 1.784/5 to 2.265/4.
But then he also made a mess of the par-5 18th and Elvira's week was saved.
A short note to acknowledge the scenes in the Evian Championship.
Jeongeun Lee led the fourth major of the LPGA year by five shots after 54-holes and was backed at a low of 1.11/10 for the week.
Like Elvira, she was caught in the final round, she also recovered, she also made a play-off, but there was no redemption - she could not overcome Minjee Lee (40.0 at the start of the week).
A few fingers were stung.
In the 3M Open the two selections Bubba Watson and Patton Kizzire had very similar weeks, opening with 72s to sit outside the top 100, going low to make the cut, but making no impression thereafter.
There was better news for the Find Me a 100 Winner selections.
J.T. Poston (130.0129/1) was tied ninth heading into the weekend ahead of finishing T28th and Mito Pereira (11.010/1) was tied sixth, albeit fast-finishing, emerging from outside the top 20 pre-final round.
In Europe, 130.0129/1 pick James Morrison opened with a 66 to lie tied third but ended the week T40th. Steve had also highlighted Harding at 25.024/1 in his tournament preview.
*You can follow Steve on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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