The Punter's De-Brief: Hatton keeps his head at Bay Hill

Golfer Tyrrell Hatton
Tyrrell Hatton with the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy
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Steve's pre-event [70.0] fancy, Tyrrell Hatton, has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Jorge Campillo the Qatar Masters. Our man looks back at all the action here...

"Hatton very much wears his heart on his sleeve and he struggles to keep a lid on his temper at times so there was a lot to like about the manner of the [70.0] chance’s victory."

The Arnold Palmer Invitational began like any other PGA Tour event. Matt Every led after an opening seven-under-par 65 and as many as 44 players broke the par of 72. Every then missed the cut after a second round 83 and we finished the event with just four players under-par.

With the rough up and the wind blowing consistently, what started out as regular tournament turned into something more akin to a major as the course dried out. Only Max Homa broke par on Saturday and Matt Fitzpatrick, who somehow managed to shoot three-under-par in round four, was the only player all weekend to break 70.

Rory McIlroy, who sat tied for second after round one, fourth at halfway and second again through three rounds, dominated the market from the start but having hit a low of [2.2] in-running, he was blown away on the front-nine on Sunday. After birdying the par five fourth, he bogeyed five and double-bogeyed both six and nine and we were left with what developed into a three-man tussle.

Sungjae Im, who had won the Honda Classic the week before, played the first two thirds of the course in one-under-par but he was always on the backfoot after a double-bogey at 13 and a bogey at 15. He left a 13 foot eagle putt short on 16 and he also failed to get a birdie putt from the same range on 18 up to the hole but even if he'd holed both, he still wouldn't have passed the winner, Tyrrell Hatton.

The 2017 winner, Marc Leishman, did very little wrong after a slow start to round four. He played his last 10 holes in an incredible two-under-par and he was matched at just [2.0] in-running but he just couldn't quite reel in the gritty Englishman who parred his way in to win by one after a double-bogey at the 11th where his drive found the water.

Hatton very much wears his heart on his sleeve and he struggles to keep a lid on his temper at times so there was a lot to like about the manner of the [70.0] chance's victory. Having led by two with a round to go, he was caught by the time he'd played six holes but then played this delightful tee-shot on the par three seventh.

Another birdie followed at the eighth but the double-bogey at 11 soon cancelled them both out. It was never going to be plain sailing after that but there was a lot to admire about the way he stoically parred his way in after that to win by one.

Over at the Qatar Masters, pre-event [200.0] chance and third round leader, Jorge Campillo, looked to be cruising to victory when he led by a couple with three and then two holes to play. With his nearest challenger, Denmark's Jeff Winther, who was matched at a low of [2.0] flittering shots away (played the back-nine in three-over-par), Campillo hit a low of [1.11] but after a bogey at 16, he double-bogeyed the penultimate hole and it looked like he might have thrown the event away.

Scotland's David Drysdale, a pre-event [1000.0] chance in search of his first victory in his 498th start on the European Tour, gave himself a great look at birdie at 18 to snatch the title and he was matched at [1.61] for the win before missing his chance and we were into extra time.

Drysdale again hit a great approach at the first extra hole and he was matched at [1.33] but Campillo rolled in his birdie from 25 feet before the Scot showed guts to hole his six-footer to keep the playoff going.

The par four 18th at Education City is a tough finishing hole and there had been just six birdies there all day in regulation play but after the two playoff protagonists had birdied it at the first extra hole, we didn't have to wait long for two more!

Drysdale hit an even better approach at the second time of asking and he was matched at a low of [1.16] when he knocked it to three feet but once again the Spaniard responded, making another birdie of his own from around 25 feet again. The pair parred the hole a couple of times more before the title was finally decided at the fifth extra hole.

My Bets

I didn't really like the look of any of the three leaders in Qatar and as it transpired, none of them broke par in round four, so going into the final round with the next three on the leaderboard onside, having backed them all in-running at various stages, I was hopeful of at least a decent trade but all three were fairly hopeless.

Alexander Bjork, backed at halfway at [16.5], finished alone in sixth, beaten by two, after a level-par 71 on Sunday, Pablo Larrazabal shot one-over to finish tied for seventh, and Benjamin Poke, who I backed at halfway at a juicy [110.0], opened up round four bogey-par-double-bogey! He went on to shoot four-over and to finish tied 17th.

That was a disappointing outcome but having pre-event pick, Hatton, win at [70.0] more than made up for it and I ended the week on a high. I did lay him back at very long odds-on with a hole to play but that was just to level things off.

As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, having backed Leishman before the final round, the only player on the leaderboard I didn't have on my side with around to go was Rory so the back-nine was about as stress-free as it gets.

What Have We Learned This Week?

There are no clear statistical trends to follow at Bay Hill and having reflected on this year's result, in-particular, that makes sense. In the last three years alone we've seen winning scores ranging from -4 to -18 so it stands to reason that different skillsets are more important depending on conditions. I would, however, prioritise Scrambling over the rest.

Hatton ranked tied for seventh for Scrambling, alongside Im in third and the runner-up, Leishman, ranked number one. The first and second 12 months ago ranked fifth and second and although he won in much easier conditions two years ago, Rory topped the Scrambling stats as well as the leaderboard.

Prioritising Scrambling over any other stat may be the way to go but the clearest indicators have to be course and links form. The first four home and the only four players to break-par had all finished at least fourth at Bay Hill previously and although none of them have yet won an Open Championship, any one of them may well do so.

I'm hoping it's Hatton, who I backed for the game's oldest major at the end of last year. He's a two-time winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links and it was his links skills that got him across the line again here.

Wind, tough rough, fast fairways and fast greens are all synonymous with links golf and that will go someway to explain why so many fine links exponents and Open winners have prospered at Bay Hill.

And finally, the first three home were again all non-Americans. Matt Every and Tiger Woods have both won here recently but it's now 15 years since any other American took the title and the overseas players thrive here.

There's just one event to concentrate on this week but it's a cracker. The PGA Tour stays in Florida for a third week running as we take in the Players Championship at Sawgrass. I'll be back later today or tomorrow with the preview.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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