The Punter's De-Brief: Walker cruises to hometown success

Jimmy Walker with the Valero Texas Open trophy
Jimmy Walker with the Valero Texas Open trophy

Steve looks back at another eventful week's golf trading where, as there always are, lessons have been learned for the future...

"It had been a stressful enough Sunday afternoon but I finished in front for the tournament and sufficiently so to leave the event in Texas alone and to accept a small loss on the week."

Despite a bogey at the 7th hole and triple-bogey at the 8th, Richie Ramsay managed to get the job done in Morocco to win the Trophee Hassan II by a stroke over Romain Wattel, with six others a further stroke back in a tie for third. Ramsay was matched at an incredible 310.0309/1 when the market first opened but was around about a 90.089/1 chance at the off.

Over in the States, halfway leader, Jimmy Walker, smoothly cruised to a convincing victory at the Valero Texas Open - lying to rest the PGA Tour's third round leaders hoodoo in fine style.


My Bets

The Valero Texas Open was a frustrating affair. I looked to have two great chances in Charley Hoffman and Aaron Baddeley at halfway but I really fancied Walker to win. I was definitely guilty of hoping for the best instead of backing what I fancied and in truth; I wasn't completely surprised when both the Hoff and Badds drifted tamely away over the weekend.

It's easy afterwards though. Walker was trading at 3.8514/5 at halfway and maybe if I hadn't staked quite so much before the off (I backed 14 outsiders, including late selection Hoffman) then I may have been more inclined to back Walker. It's all about longevity though and from my experience - regretting not backing a short-priced winner is far better than chasing losses.

How would I have felt if I'd have piled in on Walker and he'd have flopped as well? My mistake was staking too much before the off - I'd talked myself into a fourth big-priced winner in-a-row at the event and with the benefit of hindsight I staked a bit too much. I also didn't get anywhere near enough out of Hoffman.

I've seen him mess up winning chances umpteen times but he won recently, at the OHL Classic, and when he went clear on Friday I fancied he could keep going and I'd sort my book out at halfway. It didn't quite work out like that though. He played his final nine holes in four-over par whereas Walker birdied three of his last four holes - a catastrophic swing of seven shots.

I was sorely tempted to give up on the Trophee Hassan II yesterday and just file it under too difficult but fortunately I didn't. My first move was to get young German, Marcel Schneider, onside at an average price of 55.054/1 after he'd reached seven-under-par with still six to play. I felt if he could birdie the two par fives and par the rest and set a target of nine-under-par, he might take some catching. He played them in level par and was caught very easily though.

My next move looked like a poor one but it transpired to save the day. Ramsay birdied the par 5 5th hole to go two clear at the top but it was a lucky birdie. It hit the hole with pace and dropped but had it missed he'd have struggled to make par. I thought he was worth laying at around 2.26/5 and duly went after him.

At the very next hole he stiffed his approach to just two feet and he went odds-on for the first time. Probably rashly, I went in again and all of a sudden, I was wishing I had left the blasted event alone. I had a whacking great red figure next to Ramsay and I wondered whether I'd done the right thing for a minute or two. Fortunately I had.

A bogey at the 7th gave me hope and the disastrous six at the par 3 8th gave me the opportunity to make a really good book. I went on to lay Wattel at 2.89/5, as well as Wade Ormsby, Kevin Phelan and Emiliano Grillo at single-figure prices and when my in-play wager, Mikael Lundberg, gave himself a great chance to tie the lead at the par 3 16th, I managed to lay plenty back on him at just 6.25/1.

It had been a stressful enough Sunday afternoon but I finished in front for the tournament and sufficiently so to leave the event in Texas alone and to accept a small loss on the week.


What Have We Leaned This Week?

Being an out of form British European Tour winner with links form, Richie Ramsay was very much an identikit Trophee Hassan II winner but I can't say I'm kicking myself too hard. He was one I looked at but he looked too badly out of sorts given his last five results were a withdrawal sandwiched between four missed cuts.

I absolutely love Golf du Palais Royal as a venue and the trends were upheld nicely but I'm not going to waste time analysing the result further at this stage as we don't know when we'll be back here next - according to an interview Pablo Larrazabal gave to Sky Sports on Friday, they've made the decision to move the event to the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat next year.

We've now had six editions of the Valero Texas Open and we have some lovely trends to guide us now. Two of the six editions can be separated out for two reasons. The 2010 renewal was played in rain-softened conditions on a brand new course and the 2012 edition was played in unusually benign conditions with the course set-up to really encourage aggressive play and low scoring but the other four have panned out very similarly.

A huge draw bias has occurred because of the weather over the first two days. This year, those that were drawn late/early averaged fully 4.29 less strokes over the first two days and it was most pronounced on day one with the differential being 3.75. Nobody that played in the morning broke par and only Cameron Percy and Matt Kuchar, who were both tied for 13th and five off the lead, were inside the top-22 after round one.

The halfway leader has won all four editions in standard conditions and form from the Sony Open, the Puerto Rico Open and the OHL Classic stands up superbly. Late on - on Thursday, I noted that there were six Puerto Rico Open and OHL Classic winners inside the top-six and ties and although some of them drifted away (most notably Hoffman) the clues were still there at the end.

Walker has won the last two Sony Opens and Ryan Palmer, who finished 6th, and Zach Johnson, who contended hard until the back nine yesterday, have also both won at Waialae. Chesson Hadley and Daniel Summerhays who finished tied for 4th this year both have strong form in Puerto Rico. Hadley won the Puerto Rico Open last year and Summerhays has only there twice, missing the cut on debut before finishing 7th back in 2012. And it's no surprise that form at the OHL Classic correlates nicely at that event's played at another wind-affected Greg Norman design course - El Camaleón.


Keep Opposing The Odds-on Shots In Europe

As already stated, I thought I may have erred at one stage yesterday but once again, taking on the odds-on shots in-running on the European Tour paid dividends. Ramsay was matched at low of 1.715/7 after he'd birdie the 6th but went right out to 20.019/1 after he'd messed up just two holes later and he wasn't the only one to trade at odds-on - Wattel was matched at a low of 1.84/5. As I've stated on numerous occasions, the standard isn't what it once was and most weeks at least two people trade at odds-on before inevitable nerves have their say.

I'll be back later today with my Shell Houston Open preview.

Edit: The Shell Houston Open Preview is now live on site.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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