The Punter's De-Brief: Rory returns to winning ways

Golfer Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy with the Wells Fargo trophy

Rory McIlroy has won for the first time in 19 months and Garrick Higgo has claimed his second title in three weeks. Steve Rawlings looks back at their victories here...

"Back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 had seen Rory ease clear of the rest and as he stood on the 18th tee with a two-stroke lead, victory looked assured. Winning is never easy though and the Irishman gave us one last dramatic twist."

Keith Mitchell began the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship with a two-stroke lead and he was matched at a low of just 2.226/5 after he'd birdied the first to extend his lead but that was as good as it got for the pre-event 320.0319/1 chance.

Mitchell lost his way with back-to-back bogeys at five and six and pre-tournament 230.0229/1 chance, Gary Woodland, and Rory McIlroy, a 21.020/1 shot before the off, turned for home tied at the top, after both men had played the front-nine in two-under-par.

Woodland was matched at a low of 2.546/4 but his challenge faltered with bogeys at 12 and 13 and he eventually finished fifth. Viktor Hovland had threatened throughout the weekend and he was matched at a low of 4.57/2 on Saturday and after finishing fast on Sunday, with birdies at 15, 16 and 17 and a par at the last, Mexico's Abraham Ancer was also matched at 4.57/2.

Back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 had seen Rory ease clear of the rest and as he stood on the 18th tee with a two-stroke lead, victory looked assured. Winning is never easy though and the Irishman gave us one last dramatic twist with this terrible drive.

Ancer backers were starting to think they had a chance of a playoff at least as Rory looked to play the ball from an awkward spot but his caddie, Harry Diamond, stepped in and persuaded his boss to take a drop. It was a smart move, and from there, Rory made a bogey five to win by one.

"Harry was awesome out there today, especially that decision on the last," McIlroy said said after the win. "I was ready to get in there and try to play that with a lob wedge and he said 'Let's take a step back, let's think about this. Where's the best place you're hitting your third from?'

"He calmed me down and slowed me down a little bit, and ultimately we made the right decision and I dropped instead of trying to play that shot out of the hazard. I hit a great third shot onto the green and was able to two-putt from there."

Over on the European Tour, pre-event 17.016/1 favourite, Garrick Higgo, who had won the Gran Canaria Open two weeks prior, began the final round of the Canary Islands Championship with a two-stroke lead and it didn't take him long to pull clear of the field. He was already four in front of the field when he did this at the par three seventh...

The 21-year-old South African eventually went on to win by six with a 27-under-par total and he'll head to Kiawah Island for his first major championship next week as a lively outsider.

Rory McIlroy was understandably the big mover in the USPGA Championship market and If he can build on yesterday's victory, his first in 19 months, he may just take some beating given he won the USPGA at Kiawah on the last occasion it staged the Championship by eight strokes in 2012!

Rory at Kiawah.jpg

After yet another impressive performance, there's also been support for Viktor Hovland, who Dave Tindall put up at 44.043/1 last week, but it's a very open looking market and it's a tournament I'm really looking forward to.

My Bets

It was quite irritating to see last week's Find Me a 100 Winner selection, Keith Mitchell, contend a week late and it was the same scenario on the European Tour.

I thought Alejandro Del Rey looked a great fit for the Golf Costa Adeje which hosted both last week's Canary Islands Championship and the Tenerife Open the week before. He missed the cut in the Tenerife Open when backed as a trade at 180.0179/1 and for a top-20 finish at 6/1 but he finished ninth yesterday.

I had looked at him for last week's event but curiously he was cut from 6/1 to 4/1 to finish inside the top-20 after missing the cut so I left him out.

It wasn't all doom and gloom though. The Wells Fargo Championship didn't go to plan, although 260.0259/1 Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Phil Mickelson, who led after round one, did at least hit the first lay back target of 10.09/1. Lefty hit a low of 8.415/2 early on in round two before capitulating badly to eventually finish 69th!

I was extremely cautious all week in-play and looking back, I was correct to be so. Given he'd only just started working with new coach, Pete Cowan, and that he came into the event in terrible form, it was very hard to make a case for McIlroy, even though he's a member at Quail Hollow and this was his third victory in the event. Even Rory was surprised by how well he played...

"Pete and I did some good work last week in Florida and I felt good about my game coming in here, but obviously I wasn't expecting to come and win first week straight out again."

As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I had a couple of small bets in-play in the Wells Fargo but it always felt like a tournament to be wary off and as far as I was concerned, the winner never represented value at any stage.

Thankfully, I thought the winner in the Canary Islands did represent value at halfway and I had a reasonable bet on him at 5.24/1 on Saturday morning so it's been a profitable week.

With the USPGA Championship looming large, this week's European Tour event, the British Masters, begins on Wednesday, to give anyone playing at the Belfry an extra day to travel, so I'll be back later today with my preview for that event and I'll be back tomorrow with my Byron Nelson Championship preview, where a stellar field lines-up ahead of next week's major.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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