The Punter's De-Brief: Fabulous Fowler silences critics in fine style

Rickie Fowler moments after winning the Players
Rickie Fowler moments after winning the Players

Steve takes a look back at one of the most exciting finales in PGA Tour history. Read how the action unfolded and how the market reacted here...

“Over par for the day and miles off the lead, Fowler was matched at all rates up to 790.0789/1 before he finished the tournament with a birdie at 13, a par at 14, a birdie at 15, a two-foot tap-in eagle at 16, the first of three birdies on the day at 17, and his first ever career birdie at 18. It was a privilege to witness such a finish and it looked like he’d done enough.”

Before we look at The Players I'll quickly wrap up the European Tour action. Pre-event favourite, George Coetzee, birdied the par 5 18th at the Heritage Club three times yesterday to win the inaugural Mauritius Open - once in regulation play, to catch Thorbjorn Olesen, and twice in the playoff. Olesen matched him at the first extra hole but having missed the fairway at the second, the Dane, who was matched at just 1.282/7 in running, couldn't match Coetzee's two putt birdie. That was a fairly intriguing finale to what had been a satisfactory tournament, what followed in the States was simply sensational...

For much of the final round at Sawgrass, what had looked a potential powder keg of a finish was turning into a bit of a damp squib. With so many players in-contention, it looked to close to call before the start of play but with many of the leaders treading water, Sergio Garcia cruised to the front to go odds-on after just eight holes. For much of the day he looked like staying there but then up stepped Rickie Fowler and Kevin Kisner to provide us with one of the most exhilarating finishes I've been lucky enough to witness.

Having sat tied for third at halfway, Fowler had stuttered during round three and for much of round four but just when his chance looked lost, he finished in tremendous style. Over par for the day and miles off the lead, Fowler was matched at all rates up to 790.0789/1 before he finished the tournament with a birdie at 13, a par at 14, a birdie at 15, a two-foot tap-in eagle at 16, the first of three birdies on the day at 17, and his first ever career birdie at 18. It was a privilege to witness such a finish and it looked like he'd done enough.

There were all sorts of celebrations after Fowler had finished and he was matched for 16k at just 1.271/4 and a total of 327k was traded at 1.42/5 and below. He looked like he'd done enough but much credit goes to Garcia and Kisner, who absolutely refused to hand Fowler the title without a fight. Those two birdied both 16 and 17 to match Fowler and had Ben Martin not bogeyed the last, he'd have joined the trio in extra time.

The Players Championship is a bit different to normal PGA Tour events as it now has a three-hole playoff system in operation and it didn't disappoint.

All three men missed the fairway on the par 5 16th and had to accept par there but then both Kisner and Fowler birdied 17 again before all three pared the last. That meant elimination for Sergio, who had been matched at a low of 1.768/11 in-running, and the other two went back to 17 as the playoff went in to sudden death mode.

Kisner hit a cracker again to around 14 feet but that was soon eclipsed as Fowler hit it to around four. Kisner, who had been matched at just 1.664/6 in regulation play when he'd had a ten-footer to win on the 18th, missed his birdie attempt and Fowler made no mistake with his.

As Romilly Evans had highlighted here before the off, Fowler had only recently been voted by his fellow pros as one of the most overrated players on Tour. I think he may have answered his critics don't you?

One could argue that as spectacular as the finish was, it was from way off the pace and he would have no doubt felt his chance had gone - until his magical approach shot on 16 he was still trading at way above 30.029/1 - but to regroup after all the backslapping and high-fiving to win in extra time was impressive, indeed, very impressive.


My Bets

Having had three losing weeks in-a-row the goal this week was to win. I didn't go mad before the off at either event and I traded cautiously throughout. Going in to the final day, I set myself modest targets and I managed to meet them.

As highlighted in the In-Play Blog on Saturday evening, I quite fancied Olesen to come out on top in Mauritius yesterday but I wasn't so blinkered as to not lay off when he hit the front. I layed him back at 1.42/5 and then again at 1.330/100 when Coetzee had missed the green on 17 and I'm glad I did.

At the Players Championship, I waited and waited for what felt like an eternity before finally getting involved yesterday - laying Garcia at odds-on as he played the par 5 9th. I wasn't quite fast enough to grab the 30.029/1 plus available when Fowler knocked it to two feet on 16 and I regret not backing Garcia back and/or laying the other two at odds-on before the playoff but it all worked out well in the end and I finished the week in front.


Stick with Kevin Kisner

To be fair to Sergio Garcia, he did absolutely nothing wrong yesterday and was arguably unlucky to lose. He can be quite flaky in-contention but it was impossible to fault him yesterday but Kisner impressed me, again, immensely.

He was very unlucky to get beat by an inspired Jim Furyk in extra time at The Heritage last month and he must feel aggrieved again here - quite how his birdie putt on 18 stayed above ground I have no idea! He was very unlucky not win yesterday and it's only a matter of time before he breaks his PGA Tour duck.

This chap has bottle in abundance. In fact, he's so ballsy in-the-mix it's a wonder his gait isn't severely impeded! It's not often you see someone come through that you can say you can trust with confidence but this is one you can. He will win and he will win soon.

I always find it hard to drop off after such a late and exciting finish to an event so I'm feeling a tad tired today but I will aim to get my research finished and my Wells Fargo Championship preview published this evening but my Open de España Open one will most certainly be tomorrow.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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