Patrick Reed has won his second WGC event and Viktor Hovland has won his first tournament on the PGA Tour. Our man looks back on the two here...
"We’ve now had four editions of the WGC-Mexico Championship and three major champions have won all four renewals– DJ (twice), Phil Mickelson and now Reed, and all three have great records at Augusta."
With three of the world's top four players in-contention with a round to go, the WGC-Mexico Championship was a sponsor's dream and we looked all set for a titanic struggle between some of the game's most admired players.
The ever-popular Justin Thomas led through 54 holes, with world number one, Rory McIlroy, in close attention and when Spain's Jon Rahm started the final round in fine style, birdying the first three holes and four of the first five, we looked set for exactly what the organisers would have hoped for.
The leaderboard was jam-packed and it was anyone's event but just as we were all settling in for what looked like a fascinating affair, Thomas, McIlroy and Rahm, as well as the likeable South African, Erik Van Rooyen, all faltered, leaving the way clear for what transpired to be something of an unpopularity contest between the game's pantomime villains - Bryson DeChambeau and the even more unpopular, Patrick Reed.
Thomas' round was the most bizarre. He'd been matched at a low of [1.84] on Saturday before he bogeyed his final hole of round three and there was little sign of the calamities to come when ha made a straightforward birdie at the first in round four but he just failed to get going after that. Eventually slumping to a tie for sixth after a two-over-par 73.
Having been matched in-running at a high of [900.0] before his course record 61 on Saturday, Rahm was matched at a low of [3.0] after his speedy start yesterday but after four birdies in-a-row at the turn, it was Bryson that took a real stranglehold on the event. The controversial and unconventional Californian, who had begun the week as a [40.0] chance, hit a low of just [1.17] when he led by two with four to play but he failed to birdie the simple par five 15th before bogeying the par three 17th.
Playing in the group behind, Reed birdied 15, 16 and 17 to lead by two and the pre-tournament [55.0] chance, who was matched at a high of [80.0] before the off, was able to win by a stroke, despite a bogey at the final hole after yet another scruffy tee-shot.
Reed has a negative Stroke Gained off-the-tee figure of -1.01 but his short game was sensational and as Justin Ray testifies below, his putting wasn't too shabby either.
45 one-putts for @PReedGolf this week, most by any PGA Tour winner over the last 30 years.? Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) February 24, 2020
Over at the Puerto Rico Open, 22-year-old, Viktor Hovland, became the first Norwegian to win on the PGA Tour but having led by a stroke through 54 holes, it was far from a straightforward success. The tournament took a very unexpected twist when Hovland duffed a couple of chips on the par three 11th to record a triple-bogey six and it was 40-year-old PGA Tour maiden, Josh Teater, who was matched at a low of [2.02], that looked most likely to benefit.
The pre-event [200.0] chance, who was matched at a high of [240.0], would have felt hard done by when Hovland chipped in for eagle at the par five 15th but he drew level again with a birdie at the 17th before having to witness this birdie four by Hovland at the 72nd hole.
That was quite a pacey putt and the pre-event [18.0] favourite, Hovland, would have quite a tester back for a par and a playoff had it not been bang on-line.
The Puerto Rico Open has been dominated by outsiders and veterans since it became a PGA Tour event in 2008 so I was never going to plump for the winner there. I was tempted to lay him at odds-on with a round to go but instead played the experienced PGA Tour winner, Martin Laird, who sat second through 54 holes, but he was hopeless. Laird double-bogeyed the opening hole in round four before eventually finishing tied for sixth so that was a poor result but Mexico more than made up for it.
Having backed Dustin Johnson before the off, the tournament couldn't have started any worse. Despite winning the event twice in three years, his opening 76 gave him no chance of defending the title but my in-running trades worked out nicely.
As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I traded both Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas neatly to ensure a profit before the final round and a small wager on Reed at [5.2] yesterday morning was the icing on the cake.
What Have We learned This Week?
We've now had four editions of the WGC-Mexico Championship and three major champions have won all four renewals- DJ (twice), Phil Mickelson and now Reed, and all three have great records at Augusta.
Johnson's major tally of just one US Open is poor given his outstanding talent and he's yet to win the US Masters but he appears to have gotten to grips with Augusta now. He missed the 2017 edition when he fell down the stairs on the Monday of the event but his last four visits have produced form figures reading 6-4-10-2, Mickelson has won the Masters three times and Reed won at Augusta two years ago.
Given they're both tree-lined, Club de Golf Chapultepec and Augusta are similar visually and they both seem to produce big variations in scores. It's possible to get on a run around the US Masters venue, as it clearly is in Mexico, but when the two courses dry out and the wind picks up, both are difficult enough and if you're off your game, as Thomas was yesterday, scoring becomes nigh on impossible.
This year's finish wasn't anywhere near as dramatic as it looked like it might be but we still saw DeChambeau go from two clear to two behind in the space of just three holes and there were some huge swings in the market, as there so often is at Augusta too.
And talking of Augusta, I'm convinced Rory's always been affected in some way by his final round collapse there back in 2011 and he remains one to oppose when he starts well - as he did again here. Following this week's defeat, he's now been beaten on 12 of the last 13 occasions that he's led or co-led after the opening round. He's, understandably, very popular in the market so he's always a cheap lay.
The European tour fires up again this week with the third edition of the Oman Open and the PGA Tour switches coasts to take in the Honda Classic in Florida. I'll be back with the previews later today or more likely tomorrow.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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