Steve takes his customary look back at all the action on the European and PGA Tours last week where there were wins for Scott Hend in Thailand and Charl Schwartzel in Florida...
“Schwartzel looked to be slipping away after bogeys at 10 and 12 had sandwiched a birdie at the par five 11th but he holed an absolute bomb for birdie at 13 from all of 64 feet and he never looked back after that.”
Third round leader, Scott Hend, who had been matched at 48.047/1 last Monday, held his nerve superbly to win the True Thailand Classic. Dan Thomas' each-way selection was the third Australian to win on the European Tour in the last four weeks and the fifth to win this season.
Over on the PGA Tour, the Valspar Championship went the way of another 48.047/1 shot, Charl Schwartzel, after he beat third round leader, Bill Haas, in a playoff. Schwartzel had begun yesterday's final round five behind Haas and he was generally a 32.031/1 chance with a round to go. Having won twice in his native South African on the European Tour this season, it was his third win in less than four months but it was his first on the PGA Tour since he landed the 2011 Masters.
Although Scott Hend had been backed before the off in Thailand, the result wasn't anywhere near as good as it could have been. In fact, I would have won more on him last week if he'd finished inside the top-20 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. I thought he was a fabulous price at 8/1 to achieve that feat but he was hopeless in Florida and a number of factors meant I didn't get the most out of him in Thailand.
I'd backed him to win this event 12 months ago and he threw it away so I didn't hang about laying him back on Saturday once he reached 3.185/40 and then yesterday didn't pan out as well as it perhaps might have done. Having also backed Thomas Pieters (to win considerably more than Hend) the best scenario would have been victory for the Belgian, or for the pair to battle it out between themselves, and at the start of the final round that had looked highly likely. Pieters had begun the final round in third place and three behind Hend but a birdie at the first and a chip-in eagle at the second soon saw him level. I thought I was going to be able to trade the pair nicely as they drew clear but it wasn't to be.
A bogey at the third followed for Pieters and he never traded any shorter than 2.89/5 but the real fly in the ointment came in the shape of unknown Thai, Piya Swangarunporn, who I ended up having to back as well.
With just four career top-tens on the Asian Tour and without an Asian Tour card, the 1000.0 shot got into the event because of his status on the All Thailand Golf Tour. Having finished third at the Black Mountain Masters back in 2010, he did have some course form but he hadn't been on my radar. Swangarunporn played some incredible golf yesterday though, shooting a remarkable course record, nine-under-par 63. I got him onside after he'd chipped in for eagle at the 10th hole at 10.09/1 but he was matched at a low of 1.84/5 after he'd posted his score.
Hend had been matched at 1.321/3 in-running but he drifted out to 5.04/1 after he'd bogeyed the 12th and failed to birdie the easy par five 13th but he finished brilliantly to win quite cosily in the end.
I didn't get too involved at the Valspar and to a certain degree I regret that. As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I felt Haas, who had begun the event as a 100.099/1 shot, had been the value at halfway at 14.013/1 and given he was matched at just 1.251/4 yesterday he'd have made for a lovely trading vehicle. I'd been concentrating on the Thai event though and I've long since learnt that I can't trade two events properly without making mistakes when one of them runs at unsociable hours.
I did trade the event a bit in-running last night but it all came to very little when I favoured Haas in extra time.
What Have We Learned For Next Year?
We've only had two True Thailand Classics and a big-hitting Aussie has won them both. Yet again, I don't think we can trust the stats for that event because although Pieters ranked second for Driving Distance, Hend only ranked 40th and that's very misleading. He's one of the longest players in the world. There's no rough to speak of and plenty of room off the tee so stick to the bombers again next year.
Over at the Valspar, Haas became the latest in a string of third round leaders to flop and Schwartzel was yet another winner to come from off the pace. I felt a bit sorry for Haas as it was a tricky day and he didn't do a lot wrong. Schwartzel's four-under-par 67 was the best of the day and it wasn't without a bit of luck.
The South African looked to be slipping away after bogeys at 10 and 12 had sandwiched a birdie at the par five 11th but he holed an absolute bomb for birdie at 13 from all of 64 feet and he never looked back after that.
Four rounds over four days sounds a lot but it's not really that long to separate so many quality players and there's nearly always a stroke of luck for the winner along the way. Only last week, Adam Scott's approach shot on the 72nd hole miraculously hung up on the bank for him to chip-and putt for victory and Hend got all his luck on the very first hole in Thailand...
Starting on the back-nine on Thursday morning, and no doubt a little tired following his journey from Florida, Hend hit three tee-balls off the 10th tee! Luckily for me and all his other backers, they found his original tee-shot and he went on to make a par but given he then bogeyed 11 and 13 and that he was still two-over through seven, you have to wonder whether he'd have recovered at all if that very first ball had never been found. Some may say there's no such thing as luck but there is.
We've got a couple of crackers to enjoy this week. There's a really strong line-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on the PGA Tour and I've been waiting 12 months to get at the Hero Indian Open again at the wonderfully tricky and tight Delhi Golf Club. I'll try and get the Arnold Palmer preview out this afternoon/evening but I suspect the Indian Open preview won't be finished until tomorrow.
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