The Shenzhen International Open dragged on and on and I'm not even sure how many weather delays there were in the end! There was even a delay this morning when fog pushed the resumption of round four back an hour. When all was finally said and done, Korea's Soomin Lee, who went off at around 160.0159/1, having been matched at a high of 210.0209/1, seized the initiative with a birdie at the 16th and an eagle at the 17th. He bogeyed the 72nd hole but it mattered not and he went on to win by a cosy two strokes.
Lee,, playing on a tournament invite, was the first wire-to-wire winner on the European Tour since Andy Sullivan took the Portugal Masters last October but there were plenty of twists and turns on the way. He hit 1.42/5 in the early hours of Sunday, after racing to a five stroke lead after 16 holes of round three but his lead was down to three through 54-holes after a double bogey at 17 and he trailed by a couple of strokes after a poor start to round four. He was matched at odds-on twice and two others also dipped below evens.
Alex Levy hit 1.910/11 when he gave himself a great chance to birdie 14 to take the lead and Branden Stone was matched at just 1.84/5 when he too had a good opportunity to take the lead on the 16th. And Joost Luiten was matched at just 2.26/5 way back on Friday so it was a result for both the pre-event and in-play layers.
It's not very often you lay the winner (see My Bets below) and yet still enjoy the tournament but that was the case in Texas where pre-event 30.029/1 shot, Charley Hoffman, held Patrick Reed at bay in the most determined fashion.
Hoffman had brilliant course form figures reading 13-2-13-3-11-11 and he'd been in fine form of late too. He'd led the Shell Houston Open at halfway at the beginning of the month before dropping away to finish outside the top-30 and had been in-contention at the RBC Heritage only last week, having been tied for the lead at halfway and trailing by just a stroke with a round to go. He drifted down the leaderboard there too, eventually finishing 14th, but it was an entirely different story this week and when he holed his nine foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, nobody could begrudge the gritty Californian his fourth PGA Tour title.
I barely got involved in China. One of my two pre-event picks, Scott Hend, finished in a tie for fourth but he was always chasing and I never got a chance to lay anything back. And although I was sorely tempted by Stone on Saturday, I didn't really get involved in-running.
I traded Lee Slattery back and forth all day yesterday until I'd got a decent free wager on him before play resumed but he was out of it in no time and I was just too tired to trade the event properly. I toyed with laying Levy at odds-on and if I had I would have also layed Stone at below evens, as well as the eventual winner, and that would have led to a profitable event but like everyone else, by one o'clock this morning I was fed up with the tournament and I just couldn't muster any enthusiasm.
Over in Texas, I layed Charley Hoffman with four holes to play at 1.564/7 but it wasn't an awful result in the end. I'd staked very little before the off and I'd been very cautious throughout. Like the one in China, It felt like an event I could never quite get to grips with and I'm happy enough with the outcome.
As detailed in the In-Play Blog, I thought it looked a minefield with a round to go and other than a couple of tiny wagers on off the pace outsiders, Aaron Baddeley and Kevin Streelman, I couldn't fancy anyone at the prices so my outlay on the event was very small. And I didn't go mad in-running either.
I couldn't resist getting after Hoffman late on and it twice looked like I'd done the right thing. He missed the green on the par three 16th hole and Patrick Reed went odds-on. I really should have layed Reed then but didn't and when they both made par it felt like a missed opportunity so I didn't mess about when I got another chance just minutes later.
Reed stiffed his approach to seven feet and Hoffman chunked his completely - barely making the green. Reed hit a low of 1.51/2 and I layed him modestly at 1.75/7. I still kept Hoffman as a loser in the book and with hindsight I should have layed Reed for more but all things considered, it wasn't an awful result.
What Have We Leaned For Next Year?
Nine of the last 21 Valero Texas Open winners have been Texans, so give them plenty of attention, and don't be afraid to back an outsider. The runner-up, Reed, is a Texan and so is Ryan Palmer and Martin Piller, who both finished tied for fourth. And Piller, who was matched at a low of just 2.6213/8 yesterday, was most certainly an outsider. He was matched at a 1000.0 before the off.
Course form stands up really well and yet again the winner was always up with the pace. Hoffman was never outside the front three all week.
Malnati's One To Stick With
Regular readers will know I've been backing Peter Malnati with regularity at some very fancy prices of late so it was galling to leave him out this week. I felt I had to back him after round one at a triple figure price and he'll be a regular play again after a fine week in Texas. But for one poor round he could have even won. Malnati eventually finished tied for 13th having lost his way in round three. His four-over-par 76 on Saturday was extremely damaging and it was the highest round shot by anyone that finished the week inside the top-40 all week.
I'll be back later today or early tomorrow with previews of this week's two events - the Volvo China Open and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
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