Second last year, Taylor atones in style
Hoffman sensational in defeat
Hoshino completes DP World Tour breakthrough
The 2024 Phoenix Open was a frustrating event for three days, marred by weather delays and drink-fuelled bad behaviour in the galleries, but Sunday delivered in some style.
The final day began with Canada's Nick Taylor out front, one shot clear of Sahith Theegala, with the pair having played six holes of the third round - they were priced 5.95/1 and 5.24/1 respectively.
Both had experienced the pain of close defeat in the last two years at TPC Scottsdale and the man who had inflicted it on them - Scottie Scheffler - started the day on 8-under.
The World No. 1 opened his Sunday account with seven birdies in his first nine holes to assume favouritism before putting into a bunker on his 54th hole. He did escape with a bogey but it was a hint of what was to come.
Taylor and Theegala negotiated the third round to hit the final lap tied at the top on 15-under, two clear of Scheffler but only one ahead of veteran Charley Hoffman who had sneaked into the reckoning by making five birdies in the last six holes of his third round.
Theegala was never quite out of it until midway through the back nine, but he was also never quite in it once the final round began.
Scheffler ticked four birdies in a row from the second to become the strong odds on favourite but then his putting woes returns and short misses cost him dearly.
Hoffman was remarkably serene, making four birdies of his own through 10 to sit on top alone on 18-under, one clear of Scheffler and Taylor. At this point the trio were priced 3.814/5, 2.1411/10 and 5.49/2 respectively.
Within moments Hoffman had dropped a shot (hitting 9.08/1) and Taylor replaced him in pole position, but still the market thought Scheffler would prevail.
Whereupon Hoffman went eagle-birdie-birdie to spring four clear of the ailing and now out of it Scheffler and three ahead of Taylor. The Hoff plunged to 1.091/11, Taylor was now 5.85/1.
Then the tide changed. Hoffman finished with three pars and Taylor closed with three birdies in the final four holes to force extra holes.
The market felt that Taylor held momentum and was also wary that the break wouldn't have helped Hoffman's concentration or stiff back. He was priced 1.8910/11 against 2.1411/10 before the first blow was hit.
In fact, both men made excellent birdies at the first play-off hole before Taylor alone did so at the second time of asking to claim the win.
He had been 125/1126.00 with books at the start of the week and 280.0279/1 on the exchange so the trend of big priced winners continues on the PGA Tour in 2024.
Hoffman was 300/1301.00 in books and backed pre-event at 1000.0999/1.
Scheffler started the event priced 6.05/1 and hit a low of 1.454/9, Theegala was available at around 50.049/1 ahead of the action and was backed down to 2.962/1
It was heart break for Hoffman who also lost a play-off in this event 15 years ago to Kenny Perry.
It is eight years since the four-time PGA Tour winner last tasted victory and in seven of those years he was on the circuit's Policy Board. Now off it, he has been able to put more energy into his game and is playing on a one-time-use only category based on his career earnings.
He added to that sum last week but missing out on the trophy will sting, especially given that for such a long spell in that back nine it appeared he had done enough.
Taylor will want to keep the pedal to the floor. Mike Weir leads the International team in Montreal at the Presidents Cup and that week will be very special for any Canadian golfers involved.
Now a four-time winner himself he'll also want to start asserting himself in elite events and land a first top 25 finish in the majors (playing them regularly rather than occasionally would be a help).
Hoshino is big in Japan
Japan's Riyuka Hoshino turned pro in late 2016 and then ticked off wins with remarkable regularity.
The first came on his nation's Challenge Tour in 2017, then the main tour wins followed in 2018, 2019, 2020, twice in 2021 and then again in 2022.
Last year he ended the run but in just about the best way possible - he didn't win but he finished second or third six times, three times on his home tour, once in Germany on the DP World Tour and then he closed the year with a pair of seconds in co-sanctioned events down under (including play-off defeat in the Australian Open).
Six weeks into 2024 he got back on the winning bike, emerging triumphant after a final round performance that reflected his experience on the first page of scoring.
The 27-year-old was part of a three-way tie at the top after 54 holes of the Qatar Masters at Doha GC.
Hoshino, who was backed as high as 90.089/1 pre-event and to an average of 50.049/1, was available at 5.95/1 with 18 holes to play. His fellow leaders were the Dane Rasmus Hojgaard, priced 3.55 and the Frenchman Ugo Coussaud at 12.011/1.
Hojgaard, the pre-event favourite who jumped out to 38.037/1 after a 1-over 73 in round one, made two early bogeys and was never a threat.
Instead it was the Hoshino and Coussaud who would trade blows at the top. Both made an early birdie, both also dropped shots, but Hoshino reached the turn one clear and the favourite, hovering either side of 2.01/1.
Tom McKibbin closed to within one shot and was backed down to 4.67/2. The Northern Irishman carded one of only two bogey-free rounds on Sunday but the lack of par breakers cost him.
Scott Jamieson was 1-over through six holes but played the next 12 holes in 8-under to set a clubhouse target of 12-under that tempted some to back him at 4.67/2.
But the market knew Hoshino and Coussaud had the short par-4 16th and par-5 18th to come and trusted at least one of them to pass the Scotsman who had caught them on the live leaderboard.
Coussaud completed his back nine in 3-under but a wild drive on 16 cost him birdie and he came up short despite being backed as low as 2.0421/20.
Hoshino made birdie at 16 and 17, the latter from 25-feet, to open up a two shot lead and a par at 18 secured the win.
He's the fourth Japanese winner on the DP World Tour and will now aim to emulate his compatriot Ryo Hisatsune who won the Open de France last year and then graduated to the PGA Tour.