The Punter's De-Brief: Nerveless Noh nails his first PGA Tour win at the Zurich Classic

Seung-Yul Noh with his Zurich Classic trophy
Seung-Yul Noh with his Zurich Classic trophy

After a week of laying in the States, did our man finish in front? And what lessons have we learned for the future? Read Steve's looks back at last week's golf action here...

“The record of first time winners at the Zurich is quite remarkable. Noh is the seventh in ten years and it’s worth pointing out that even if he’d have slipped up a maiden would have won. The first four home were all in search of that illusive first title.”

Alexander Levy, matched at 310.0309/1 before the off, was the first man to cross the line on a busy Sunday yesterday. The Frenchman showed nerves of steel with his approach shot across the water on the par 5 17th at the Volvo China Open and although the margin of victory (four strokes) flattered him slightly, the manner of his maiden European Tour victory was impressive. 

Just when we looked set for a three-man playoff at the weather-delayed Indonesian Masters, up stepped India's Anirban Lahiri to bang in an eagle putt on the final hole to win by a stroke, over Australia's newest hot prospect, Cameron Smith, and Korean youngster, Baek Seuk-Hyun. It was Lahiri's fourth Asian Tour win but his first victory outside of India.

Over in the States, 22-year-old Korean, Seung-Yul Noh, was even more impressive than Levy as he cruised to his first PGA Tour victory. With a low ball flight, Noh coped brilliantly with the tricky windy conditions and this won't be his last win.


My Bets

After promising starts at all three events, I somehow managed to lose a few pounds. Richie Ramsay and Pablo Larrazabal started OK in China but drifted away over the weekend. Defending champion and sole selection, Bernd Wiesberger, was never quite in the hunt in Indonesia, after a disappointing second round, and I managed to mess up my lay book at the Zurich Classic...

As detailed in the In-Play Blog, I started the week laying all those priced below 100.099/1 and had I left it alone after that I'd have made a profit on the week but as it transpired I ended up breaking even in New Orleans and therefore losing on the week.

I was happy enough with the way I traded the event up until halfway through the final round yesterday but the fact that Noh went clear and odds-on fairly early on caught me out. I managed to lay Keegan Bradley again at just 2.35/4 before he bogeyed the 5th hole and lost the plot on the 6th and I also layed Jeff Overton at around 3.814/5 but I also layed Noh again at odd-on.

As the Korean started out on the back-nine, he was winning me pennies and everyone else at least £900 and more. I could have levelled things off and with hindsight I obviously should have done but I fancied there'd be another twist in the tale and I thought I'd get to lay someone else at odds-on or that I'd get to back Noh back at a bigger price than around 2.01/1. I didn't. 

The big turning point came on the 13th. Noh had just bogeyed the 12th and driven into a horrid spot behind the drivable par 4 13th green. It looked odds-on he wouldn't be able to get up-and-down for birdie but his approach shot clattered into the pin and stopped just four feet from the hole. Given it was bang online, it was a great shot but had it not hit the pin it would have run right off the front of the green and who knows, he may even have failed to make par. I'd have a nice book then. 


The changing PGA Tour landscape

Seung-Yul Noh was the seventh first timer to win this PGA Tour season and I doubt he'll be the last, due to a number of reasons. Every time a maiden wins, those still looking to make their breakthrough draw that little bit more inspiration and belief. If he can do it so can I becomes the mindset. The big names are aging, injured, or just don't play very often anymore, which obviously creates more opportunities, and those that I'd consider just below the very best, the likes of Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar, seem to make a meal of winning whenever they get the chance. 

Bradley has been in fine form of late but as Kuchar had done several times before he finally got lucky at Hilton Head, when he pitched in from the greenside bunker to birdie the last, Bradley has been dreadful in-contention and just like Kuchar, he needs to be treated with the utmost caution whenever he gets into the mix. 


What have we learned for next year?

The Indonesian Masters was once again won by one of the fancied runners. Louis Oosthuizen and Victor Dubuisson both withdrew injured and Wiesberger was a disappointment but Lahiri was second only to Thongchai Jaidee as the most likely winner from the Asian Tour before the off and I won't be going too far from the head of the market again next year.

The record of first time winners at the Zurich is quite remarkable. Noh is the seventh in ten years and it's worth pointing out that even if he'd have slipped up, a maiden would have won. Once Bradley had gone AWOL the only plausible candidates last night were all looking for their first wins on the PGA Tour and the first four home were all in search of that illusive first title. 

Robert Garrigus came from a mile back to finish tied 5th with a sensational eight-under-par 64. "If I'm swinging well, I can bury it through the wind better than anybody" he said, after the event, which is well worth noting, but in truth, making up ground is really tough. Noh was on the premises from the get go - he was in third after rounds one and two and the first four home were never outside the top-eight at any post-round stage. 

We've got two nice events to look forward to this week. The Championship, formally the Ballantine's Championship, which moves from Korea to Singapore and the Wells Fargo Championship in the States and I'll be back tomorrow with the previews. 

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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