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The Punter's De-Brief: Schwartzel rounds the year off nicely

A tired Charl Schwartzel with his latest trophy

"It wasn’t a spectacular week but it was profitable and it was very pleasing to finish the year off that way. "

It's been a profitable final week of the year for our man, as Charl Schwartzel wins back-to-back titles, but there were disasters elsewhere and as always, there are lessons to learn from the week. Read Steve's final De-Brief of 2012 here...

Favourite backers finished 2012 off nicely, with Sergio Garcia shooting a scintillating 61 to win the weather-affected 54-hole Iskandar Johor Open and Charl Schwartzel coasting to victory at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.  He won by 11 strokes in Thailand last week, this week it was 12!

Respite for the layers came in the shape of the un-fancied Daniel Popovic, who was matched at 1000.0n/a before the off. He led the Australian PGA Championship  from start to finish to provide a story every bit as good as Peter Senior's last week Down Under. Popovic had no form to speak of, had never played in the event before, and had even contemplated quitting the sport earlier this year to care for his seriously ill father -a heart-warming story indeed to finish the golfing year.


My Bets 
For the second week in-a-row, Schwartzel provided the week's profits but they weren't as big as they might have been, not by a long chalk.

Ernie Els was a particularly disappointing selection in Malaysia and my in-play pick, David Lipsky, was embarrassingly poor but the real stinger was backing Nick O'Hern for a Top-Ten finish Down under.

If I'd have followed Paul Krishnamurty's excellent advice in full it would have made for a profitable event but instead I just back O'Hern, who after a slow start, just got progressively worse. Having finished inside the top-ten in eight of his last ten visits to Coolum and having finished inside the top-ten at last week's Australian Open, I thought he was a tremendous bet but he chose this week to put in his worst ever performance at the track, eventually finishing tied 60th!

As I'd done last week, I again layed back some of my Schwartzel wager back and yet again I really needn't have bothered. I've no regrets at all though, as it gave me the opportunity to take it easy all weekend and there was always a slight doubt about his wellbeing. He'd been on the go all over the globe for five weeks running and a weekend crash wasn't beyond the realms of possibility. 

It wasn't a spectacular week but it was profitable and it was very pleasing to finish the year off that way. 

What have we learnt for next year?
The Iskandar Johor Open was reduced to 54-holes for the third time in four years so it makes sense to be prepared for such an eventuality again. 

I can't help but think the daily disruptions probably irritated my man Els. Hanging about all day to play just a few holes on Thursday and then having to play nigh on two rounds in a day on Friday before coming back to finish off round two on Saturday certainly didn't help the veterans cause and with the benefit of hindsight, I should have made more of a consideration to the fact it was highly likely to happen. 

In what was a fairly weak affair, Els and Garcia stood out as the only star names in Malaysia before the off and as so often happens when these world stars mix it up in Asia, one of them scooped the prize. There really is quite a gulf in class between Asian Tour regulars and genuine top-drawer players and although they often look short in the market, they frequently still represent value. 

Beware the 18th at Leopard Creek. When Schwartzel stepped onto the 72nd tee he was already ten shots clear of everyone else so the dramatic closing hole was never going to have a say in the outcome this time around but it definitely has in the past. And it most certainly will do again.

It's a fascinating risk/reward par five that some players appear to manage much better than others. Year after year Richard Sterne struggles with the hole and this year was no exception. He birdied it to finish the week off but bogeys were recorded on Thursday and Friday and he doubled it yesterday. And even when he won the event in 2008, he had a nightmare there, playing it in four-over par for the week with a birdie on day one followed by a triple-bogey eight, a double-bogey seven and a steady par five on day four.

Schwartzel on the other hand appears to have it sussed and with two birdies and an eagle, he played the hole in four under par this week.

Players to follow
Course form stands up exceedingly well at Leopard Creek (two duel winners in nine years - Pablo Martin and Schwartzel) and defending champ, Garth Mulroy, entered the week having played some mediocre stuff of late. He was never going to get near to Charl but tied 3rd was a fair effort and if he turns up in twelve months time in slightly better nick he may well become the third player to win here twice.

Player to swerve
George Coetzee was a well-touted and well-backed runner again this week but once again he disappointed his relentless followers. He played with Schwartzel over the first two days and their demeanours varied greatly. George appeared to get stroppy and lose focus very quickly whereas Schwartzel was patient and calm. 

He will have learnt a lot from Schwartzel this week and he has the talent to do a Branden Grace and notch multiple wins in a season, once he finally gets off the mark, but until he does he simply has to be swerved. His bare results look incredibly impressive but this week was just so typical of George. After three days of treading water the big fella flew through the field for another top-ten finish with an impressive seven under par 65 but once again it was too little too late.

That's it now for 2012 but I'll be back over the Christmas period at some stage with a look forward to 2013.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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16 December 2012

The Punter

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