The Punter's De-Brief: Prolific Rory wins again

Golfer Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy with the WGC HSBC Champions trophy

Rory McIlroy has won his fourth title of the year and Brendon Todd his first in five years. The Punter looks back at all last week's golf action here...

“This was Rory’s fourth win in 19 starts and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make it five from 20 in Dubai in three weeks’ time.”

We've witnessed two vastly contrasting victories this week. World number two and pre-event favourite, Rory McIlroy, has edged closer to Brooks Koepka at the top of the standings with a playoff victory at the WGC HSBC Champions in China and world number 522, Brendon Todd, an almost unconsidered 160.0159/1 chance, has won the inaugural Bermuda Championship in style.

McIlroy started slowly in Shanghai, playing his first ten holes in level-par, and having been backed down form 7.87/1 to 6.86/1 before the off, he drifted out to 22.021/1 in-play on Thursday but he made five birdies in six holes coming in - in round one and was always on the premises thereafter.

Rory went into the final round with a one-stroke lead, trading at just a shade of odds-on, and after a bogey-free, three-under-par front nine he was matched at a low of 1.171/6 but it wasn't all plain sailing. Defending champ, Xander Schauffele, despite feeling ill all week, pressed Rory the hardest, birdying two of the last four holes to take the tournament in to extra time but they playoff was a bit of a damp squib.

The 18th hole at Sheshan is a par five with water in play off the tee and on approach and it's a great hole but it does have quite a flaw for players of this calibre. If you find the fairway, you invariably find the green and if you don't it's a three-shot hole. Rory found the fairway and Xander didn't and that was the end of that. Rory two-putted for birdie and Xander failed to get up-and-down for a four from the fairway.

This was Rory's fourth win in 19 starts and I wouldn't be surprised to see him make it five from 20 in Dubai in three weeks' time. Having already won the FedEx Cup, he'd love to win the Race to Dubai too but that looks like an almighty task given four men are ahead of him in the standings and given he won't be in Turkey this week or in South Africa for the Nedbank. It will give him a nice target to chase though and it sounds like he'll be more than ready for the challenge.

"I have one more event left in Dubai. I want to finish the season off as well as I can. I really wanted to get another win before the end of the year and now that I've done that, it would be nice to get two wins."

Over at the Bermuda Championship, Harry Higgs, a pre-tournament 65.064/1 chance, took a two-stroke lead into the final round and he started nicely enough, playing the first four holes in one-under-par but he simply couldn't live with Todd. He parred the first and birdied the next seven! What had looked like being an exiting finale soon developed into a cakewalk and he went on to win by four, despite bogeying the last.

Todd came into the event with form figures reading MC-MC-MC-MC-28 so he certainly wasn't on my radar.

My Bets

With the benefit of hindsight, I should have perhaps layed my stakes back on in-play pick, Harry Higgs, in Bermuda, who I backed at halfway at 9.28/1, but it's easy afterwards and it's been a decent enough week given I backed Rory before the off in China.

Having backed Justin Thomas in Korea three weeks ago too, the PGA Tour's little three-week Asian Swing has been kind this year but I'm still glad to see the back of it. I don't like not being able to follow the events live but I've completely lost my appetite for sleep deprivation. Fortunately, the leaderboard checks on waking have been largely pleasant experiences.

What Have We Learned This Week

Paul Krishnamurty's Find Me a 100 Winner selection, Victor Perez, finished alongside Abraham Ancer, who I backed at 160.0159/1, in a tie for fourth so outsiders do place in Shanghai but the cream tends to rise to the top.

Rory was the seventh winner in ten years to have previously won a major or a WGC event and concentrating on the market leaders in the win market makes sense.

Wilting Rose looks one to swerve

Justin Rose is currently heading the early market for this week's Turkish Airlines Open and that's not surprising given he's looking to win the event for a third year in-a-row but he looks like one to swerve.

The world number eight, who won the WGC HSBC in 2017 and who finished third last year, has a great record at Sheshan but his rounds got progressively worse as the week wore on and he eventually finished the week in a tie for 28th. He hasn't won anywhere since January and he's defending the title in Turkey at a different venue to the one he's won at in each of the last two years.

We return to the Montgomerie Maxx Royal on Thursday, which hosted the event between 2013 and 2015, and although Rose was third there in 2013, he didn't return for either of the next two renewals and he'll be disappointed that the event has changed venues.

I'll be back this evening or possibly tomorrow with my preview.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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