Steve takes a look back at the action in South Africa, where George Coetzee held his nerve superbly to win on his home course and, in Florida, where Jordan Spieth won a highly entertaining Valspar Championship in extra time...
“The playoff made for brilliant viewing and we looked all set to go to the 18th hole for a second time to play a fourth extra hole but then Spieth drained a 28-footer to take a title that all three protagonists had fully deserved.”
The seemingly out of form local, George Coetzee, drifted from his opening price of 19.018/1 right out to 25.024/1 before the off at the Tshwane Open but the market negativity proved completely misguided.
Playing his local course, where he'd won a tournament as a 10-year-old, the Pretoria man won by a stroke after impressively closed down fellow South African, Jacques Blaauw, who was matched at just 1.865/6 after recording a nine-under-par final round 61.
Over in the States, the Valspar Championship turned into one of the best spectacles the PGA Tour has ever produced. Eventual winner, Jordan Spieth, made two fantastic up-and-downs on 16 and 17 before holing from 12 feet for par to get into a playoff with my two in-running picks, Patrick Reed, who was backed at 35/1 at halfway, and Sean O'Hair, who I got onside yesterday at 22.021/1. And before all that happened, Ryan Moore was matched at 1.422/5 when he led by three with just six holes to play.
The playoff made for brilliant viewing and we looked all set to go to the 18th hole for a second time to play a fourth extra hole but then Spieth drained a 28-footer to take a title that all three protagonists had fully deserved.
I was really confident that my sole selection in South Africa, Trevor Fisher Jr, would at least contend yesterday but just as he'd done on Saturday, he started his round terribly. He didn't manage to right the ship like he did on Saturday though and he finished the event in a tied for 23rd, which given he'd started the final round tied for the lead, was exceptionally poor.
I've had a really frustrating run on the European Tour of late, with a number of picks leading with a round to go and trading short before losing but Fisher's performance was really disappointing and so was my attitude. I was so hacked off with the start made by my man that I didn't concentrate properly and although I did manage to make a small profit trading the runner-up, I really didn't make the most of the situation but things turned out better in the States...
As detailed in the In-Play Blog, I backed Reed at halfway and O'Hair after round three so having both players getting to the playoff meant profit. I'd have been in clover had Spieth not made it to extra time but I've been at this game far too long to start going for gold. I'd already backed Spieth at 4.03/1 as he played the final hole and I backed him again at 2.68/5 to level things off once his par save on the 72nd hole had dropped.
What Have We Leaned For Next Year?
I really enjoyed the Pretoria Country Club and I'd be very surprised if we don't see it used again soon so it's worth a bit of reflection. It's a fairly tight course that favours the more accurate players over the big hitters and if we ever get to see it played in windy conditions it will make for fascinating viewing. The greens hardened up nicely as the week wore on so it was no surprise to see that George ranked first for scrambling.
Jacques Blaauw was trading at around 600.0599/1 before the final round and yet he was matched at odds-on! And had Coetzee not kept his calm so well, Blaauw would have walked away with the trophy. This is definitely a course where players can come from behind.
The par 5 12th averaged 4.76 on the week and was the second easiest hole on the course, the par 3 14th is simple enough and also averaged under-par, and the drivable par 4 17th, where Coetzee birdied to edge ahead, was the third easiest hole but every other hole on the back nine is tricky. Holes 10, 11, 13, 15 and 16 all averaged over par for the week and the par 4 18th ranked the second hardest hole on the course. Anyone posting a score is worth chancing given playing the last six holes in level par or better is by no means a given - especially when there's a title on the line.
I could write several pieces about the thoroughly enjoyable Valspar Championship. Reed and O'Hair's bottle, the intricacies of the finishing stretch and the sheer brilliance of Spieth are all worthy of much mention but from a punting perspective, it was very noticeable how many Quail Hollow specialists were in-contention.
Three of the last ten Wells Fargo winners - O'Hair, Vijay Singh, and Jim Furyk - have also won the Valspar Championship and two others, Derek Ernst and Lucas Glover, also contended this week.
Finally, Ryan Moore will be very disappointed by his finish yesterday (he played the last six holes in three-over par) but he's far from alone. Moore was the eighth third round leader in-a-row on the PGA Tour to fail to convert. Winning from the front is far from easy.
We've got the Madeira Islands Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitational to look forward to this week and I'll be back later with my preview of the latter.
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