The Punter's De-Brief: Wonderful Wise wins Byron Nelson in style
Adrian Otaegui has won the inaugural Belgian Knockout and Aaron Wise has walloped the opposition in Texas. Read our man's customary look back at all the action here...
"Trinity Forest, this week’s venue for the AT&T Byron Nelson, was as enjoyable a venue as I’d hoped it to be. Links form was always going to be a positive and so it proved. Leishman was beaten in a playoff at the 2015 Open championship but maybe links form away from the UK might be an even better guide…"
Spain's Adrian Otaegui, a well-fancied [32.0] pre-event chance, who was matched at a high of [38.0], won the inaugural Belgian Knockout, beating Paul Krishnamurty's each-way fancy, Benjamin Hebert, by two strokes in the final.
Hebert, who was generally a [60.0] chance (matched at a high of [70.0] before the off), hit a low of [1.5] during the final when he looked to be about to take control. Both players made a nervy start, bogeying the first, but Hebert bounced back immediately with a birdie at the second. Both parred the par three third and when Otaegui's drive was in the air at the fourth, it looked like advantage Hebert but Otaegui took full advantage of his break off the tee to tie the match before birdying three of the last four holes to win in style.
1st shot - seriously lucky? The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 20, 2018
2nd shot - seriously good
After a four-hour weather delay, Aaron Wise, who had begun the final round tied with Marc Leishman, soon took control of the AT&T Byron Nelson, birdying six of the seven holes from the fourth to the tenth. He went on to win comfortably by three.
It was the South African-born American's first victory and I'd be amazed if transpires to be his last. Wise was matched at [110.0] and [90.0] for a few pounds before the off but he was generally priced between [70.0] and [80.0].
He was extremely calm in-contention and he said after the win that he'd been more nervous on Saturday than he'd been on Sunday. What made the victory even more impressive was the fact that Wise won from the wrong side of the draw and that he had to be extremely patient yesterday. He had to wait around for the round to start in the first instance and then during play he had to wait around on many holes for the group in front, that just happened to contain the snail-like Kevin Na, to eventually clear the way.
My sole selection in the Belgian Knockout, Max Kieffer, didn't get any luck with the draw. Having qualified for the knockout stage, he beat pre-event favourite, Thomas Pieters, in the first round but bumped into the eventual winner in the second.
I didn't get involved in-running at all but I should have done given I wrote this in the In-Play Blog. "I've not gotten involved in the tournament in-running and I'm not going to now but if forced to pick one I'd go for Otaegui. Drysdale has won his quarter-final against Victor Perez in a playoff after they both played nine holes in three-over-par. Otaegui looks a good thing to get to the final."
He looked the value at around the 7/4 mark but I didn't to get him onside. It was still a decent week though - thanks to a Wise wager at halfway in Texas.
I perhaps should have made more of the event in hindsight, given I talked about backing Leishman in-running on Friday. He was matched at a high of [4.0] and a low of [1.94] during round two so whilst my instinct to swerve him was right in the end, he made for a cracking trading vehicle.
What Have We Learned This Week?
As has been the case previously, the European Tour didn't dot the i's or cross the t's before the off at the Belgian Knockout and it felt like they made it up as they went a long at times. A qualification criteria change, giving the top-16 after two days an advantage was seemingly installed during play on Friday (see In-Play post of Friday) so that wasn't ideal by any means but these events aren't organised for the benefit of us punters and overall the tournament was deemed to be a big success.
Punting-wise, if we return to this venue in 12 months time, I'd again suggest concentrating on the more accurate types and swerving both the wild and inaccurate and the veterans. David Drysdale recovered enough to beat a deflated James Heath in the third-place playoff but he was hopeless in the semi-final and the 43-year-old Scot was perhaps a bit weary.
As a new father of two, 35-year-old Heath spoke of being a bit tired in the final match and whilst Drysdale claimed he was fine, joking he was an athlete, I suspect both were feeling it. Five rounds instead of four is quite a difference on the legs and the emotional stress is greater than that experienced in a traditional stroke play event too. The two finalists were 25 and 31.
The tournament looked a bit of a lottery before the off and the two beaten semi-finalists were out of form outsiders but when the third or fourth favourite beats a plausible [70.0] chance in the final, if we're to take deductions from one renewal, we must conclude that the cream rose to the top.
Otaegui's only previous success on the European Tour was at the Paul Lawrie Match Play in Germany last year so he clearly enjoys the knockout format and that's something else to consider next time.
Trinity Forest, this week's venue for the AT&T Byron Nelson, was as enjoyable a venue as I'd hoped it to be. Links form was always going to be a positive and so it proved. Leishman was beaten in a playoff at the 2015 Open championship but maybe links form away from the UK might be an even better guide...
Branden Grace, who finished third, has won at the Fancourt Links in his native South Africa and the winner, Wise, had won at Royal Melbourne, Down Under, as an amateur two years ago.
Aussies always tend to do well in windy Texas and this course may really suit them. In addition to Leishman contending all week, Adam Scott finished inside the top-ten and Matt Jones would have done, but for a poor final round.
Being up with the pace is often vital on links layouts and that was again the case here. Wise trailed Leishman by four after round one, he was one behind at halfway and tied at the top through three rounds. In benign conditions especially, it's going to make up ground on the leaders but I can't wait to see this venue in the wind.
Jordan Spieth, a member here, who's played the course in the region of 40 times, claimed conditions were the easiest he'd encountered here on day one and it's going to be fascinating to watch an event here when the wind blows.
Even in largely benign conditions, there was enough of an increase in wind on Friday afternoon to cause a draw bias of 1.51 strokes, so the draw is going to be vitally important in years to come here and Bogey Avoidance will be an even more salient stat.
The winner, Wise, made just four bogeys all week and the runner-up, Leishman, only five, whereas Grace, who finished third, beaten by four, made seven bogeys and a double throughout the week.
We're in for a treat this week, as we're off to Wentworth for the BMW PGA Championship and the PGA Tour action is none too shabby either as they stay in Texas for the Forth Worth Invitational at Colonial Country Club and I'll be back later today or tomorrow with my two previews.
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