The Punter's De-Brief: Bubba bags another title and Brice gets off the mark

Bubba Watson – the WGC Match Play winner
Bubba Watson – in the US Masters picture after another win

Bubba Watson has claimed the WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play and Brice Garnett has won the Corales Puntacana Championship. Read our man's customary look back at all the action here...

“Watson, who was an 80.079/1 chance before the off, eventually went on to win 7&6 but he didn’t have to play especially well to win. The opening hole went the way of Watson courtesy of a birdie three but Kisner played so poorly that Bubba went 6 up though seven holes without recording another birdie.”

As is often the case at the WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play, after an interesting enough week and a pair of intriguing semi-finals, the final itself was a really damp squib.

Bubba Watson soon took control of his semi-final against Justin Thomas, opening-up 3-up lead after six holes. Thomas, who would have moved to number one in the world had he reached the final, fought back to narrow the gap to one but Bubba eased away again on the back-nine to win 3&2. The other semi-final was a much tighter affair though.

Sweden's Alex Noren, who was matched in the outright market at just 2.26/5, was matched at a low of 1.162/13 in the second semi-final, despite only ever leading by 1 up against Kevin Kisner. The Swede looked to be playing the best golf but he missed three putts in-a-row from eight feet around the turn, before Kisner holed an out and out bomb from in excess of 50 feet to tie the match on the 13th. Noren then missed from 10 feet on 17 to go 1 up and from seven feet at 18 to win the match and it wasn't a surprise to see him mess up the first extra hole.

Noren recovered his equilibrium enough to comfortably beat Thomas in the meaningless third place playoff tie but Kisner, who must have felt extremely lucky to have gotten to the final, was a spent force by the time he and Bubba teed it up and Tony Johnstone's tweet below captures brilliantly how interesting the Championship Match was.

Watson, who was an 80.079/1 chance before the off, eventually went on to win 7&6 but he didn't have to play especially well to win. The opening hole went the way of Watson courtesy of a birdie three but Kisner played so poorly that Bubba went 6 up though seven holes without recording another birdie.

Over at the Corales Puntacana Championship, Brice Garnett, who was also an 80.079/1 chance at the start of the week, shot a two-under-par 70 to win his first PGA Tour title comfortably by four. Corey Conners had been within two of Garnett with a round to go but the Canadian endured another disappointing final round. Having shot 77 at the Valspar Championship last time out, when leading through 54 holes, Conners again capitulated, this time shooting a four-over-par 76 to fall from second to a tie for 13th.

My Bets

With both Alex Noren and Corey Conners onside at reasonable in-play prices, I was quite hopeful of securing a small profit on the week. Noren appeared to be playing the best golf in Austin and, as highlighted in the In-Play Blog yesterday, I had high hopes of Conners learning from his experiences at the Valspar but it wasn't to be.

The only silver lining on what's been a poor week, is Bubba's form with the US Masters less than a fortnight away. He was my ante-post pick back in December and after a great start to the year, he's now one of the fancied runners for the first major of 2018.

What Have We Learned This Week?

The match play reaffirmed itself as a tricky and infuriating tournament to bet on. I was cautious again this year and only played one from the off (the favourite Rory McIlroy) and I kept stakes to a minimal and that's the best advice I could give.

Given the tournament rambles on for five days and it's the only one shown on TV, it's tempting to get stuck in to lots of individual matches and to back a plethora of players from both sides of the draw but it's a punting minefield. Players can play well and lose and players can underperform and win and I just don't enjoy the event. It's a horrible tournament to bet on and it's a far from interesting spectacle to watch too but I do have a couple of observations.

Yet again, neither finalist lost a match in the group stage but unusually, both men tied one apiece. This year's finalists were seeded 35th (Watson) and 32nd and they were both big outsiders so they went against the grain. Bubba was the first in 12 years to be ranked any worse than 21st and nine of the previous 11 winners were ranked inside the top-10. Bubba had begun the week as an 80.079/1 shot and Kisner was matched at 450.0449/1, although his general price ranged between 360.0359/1 and 240.0239/1 before the off.

Geoff Ogilvy remains the only triple-figure priced winner since 2002 and although Bubba was unfancied, he's the third winner in-a-row to have already won previously and he's the second in-a-row to have won the Genesis Open earlier in the year. Although his record is far from spectacular, he's represented his country at both the President's Cup and the Ryder Cup and he even had reasonable event form, having won 14 of 23 previous ties.

For the second year running, only two of the top-eight seeds made it through to the knockout phase and if you're planning on betting in-running, prior to the semi-finals, only 14% of players trailing after nine holes managed to win.

Maybe the best way to play this tournament is to wait until it starts and to watch the early play. It was soon obvious who the form horses were this year. Watson was sensational on Wednesday, playing his first nine holes in 28 strokes to go 6-up on Branden Grace and anyone that jumped on him then will have still got a decent price. And I know Noren didn't quite go all the way but he was clearly playing better than anyone else in his half of the draw.

I'll be back later today or tomorrow with my Houston Open preview.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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