The Punter's De-Brief: Crocked Day goes all the way

Jason Day with the WGC-Dell Match Play trophy
Jason Day with the WGC-Dell Match Play trophy

Despite ten hours of therapy on an injured back, number two seed, Jason Day, has won the WGC - Dell Match Play with ease and Tony Finau has got off the mark in Puerto Rico. Read Steve's review of all the week's action here...


“This tournament has never been an outsiders event and in the two years it’s been staged in the new formant the winners have been Rory McIlroy and Jason Day. As tempting as it is to back quality players at fancy prices, the way forward is to stick with the top seeds.”

The Puerto Rico Open went to a play-off, where Dave Tindall's 50/1 shot, Tony Finau, got the better of huge outsider, Steve Marino, at the third extra hole but the big event this week was undoubtedly the WGC-Dell Match Play.

Jason Day had looked like withdrawing from the event on Wednesday when he was clearly suffering with a bad back in his opening group match with Graeme McDowell. His team all implored him not to carry on but Day was having none of it. He underwent a hour of therapy before each match and a hour after, as well as two 30 minute sessions between matches on Saturday and Sunday, and he now has almost a fortnight to ready himself for Augusta and the year's first major - the US Masters.

The match of the tournament transpired to be the semi-final between Day and Rory McIlroy, which Day won 1 Up when he holed a par save from 12 feet on the 18th. A demoralised Rory tamely lost the consolation match and the final was a bit of a damp squib, with Day comfortably beating Louis Oosthuizen 5&4.


My Bets

The only silver lining to the week was that I didn't get too involved. Had Rory gotten the better of Day I'd have either won or broke even, having backed Louis at the semi-final stage but the WGC-Dell Match Play remains an event I'm really not keen on.

I've long since learnt that this is a betting minefield and my stakes were small. It's a nice change from stroke play but it's not an event I look forward to and I'm pleased I treated it with caution again.

The Puerto Rico Open was an even bigger disappointment. None of my pre-event picks were ever involved and my In-Play picks were all poor so it's been a week to forget.


What Have We Learned This Week?

Tony Finau was making his event debut in Puerto Rico but his tied seventh at the OHL Classic in Mexico and his 14th at the McGladrey Classic (now the RSM Classic) last season certainly gave him strong claims. As did his 9th at the CIMB Classic this season. They're all events played on courses that correlate nicely with Coco Beach and the man he beat in the play-off was very much a typical Puerto Rico contender.

At 36, and without a win on the PGA Tour, out of form Florida based veteran, Steve Marino, was just the type to appear form nowhere and contend in this tournament. Finau was 50/1 and quite a short price compared to most winners here and I won't give up on playing a few monster-priced outsiders next year. The leaderboard was littered with out of form veterans searching either their first win on the PGA Tour or their first win in years.

Whether you're a fan of the new WGC-Dell Match Play format or not, and personally I'm not, one thing is clear, the better players are advantaged by it. Half of the 16 Pool A players progressed to the round of 16 and three of the four semi-finalists were seeded 1-16.

This tournament has never been an outsiders event and in the two years it's been staged in the new formant the winners have been Rory McIlroy and Jason Day. As tempting as it is to back quality players at fancy prices, the way forward is to stick with the top seeds.

The surprise package this year was Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who made it all the way to the semis, despite being the number 52 seed. The draw opened up nicely for the Spaniard though and it's worth highlighting that after he'd beaten the number 14 seed, Hideki Matsuyama, on day one, he didn't play another top-16 seed until meeting Louis in the last four.

His performance did highlight another point of interest though. It was another example of someone performing well in match play that struggles to perform well in-contention in stroke play events. The two codes are very different and there are countless examples of poor in-the-mix stroke play performers shining in this one-on-one format.

With the US Masters fast approaching, there's no European Tour event this week so we've just the Shell Houston Open to concentrate on and I'll be back later today with my preview.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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