A tied 68th at the Dubai Desert Classic last month and a tied 43rd at the Genesis Invitational last week suggested Collin Morikawa had gone off the boil a bit and his two-under-par opening round of 70 at the WGC Workday Championship on Thursday didn't do much to dispel the notion but the world number six sprang into life on Friday.
Having been matched at a high of 100.099/1, the pre-event 55.054/1 chance found his mojo on Friday, firing an eight-under-par 64 to move into tied second at halfway, just one behind Brooks Koepka, and he was able to do what so many can't and back up his low round with another on Saturday.
Morikawa lost a bit of focus late on in round three and having been matched at just 1.584/7 when he led by five with six to play, he bogeyed the two par fives and his lead was reduced to two after 54 holes, but he was always in command after that.
Viktor Hovland, who had made a quadruple-bogey eight at the ninth hole on Friday, momentarily got to within one when he made a miraculous birdie at the par five 13th, and he was matched at a low of 4.1, but he bogeyed his next hole and that was the end of that. He eventually finished tied for second alongside Brooks Koepka and Billy Horshel, three behind the ultra-impressive Morikawa who climbs to number four in the world.
Over at the Puerto Rico Open, pre-event 55.054/1 chance, Jhonattan Vegas, started round four brilliantly, birdying four of his first five holes and after a birdie at the 12th, he took a two-shot lead and was matched at a low of 1.618/13 but a bogey followed at the 14th and his birdie four at the par five 18th wasn't enough to hold off a fabulous late rally by pre-event 21.020/1 chance, Branden Grace, who produced this piece of magic at the drivable par four 17th before birdying 18 to win by one.
It was an emotional win for the 32-year-old South African, who lost his father a month ago.
Some weeks are better than others and some weeks are downright horrible. Last week was worse than that.
When I went to bed late after the conclusion of the Genesis Invitational, I had a quick look at the two markets for last week and I was surprised to see Hovland trading at 32.031/1 in the Workday so I took it.
The Puerto Rico Open market had barely opened so I put in a ridiculous back on the only one that really caught my eye - Grace - at a silly price. It was either 110.0109/1 or 120.0119/1 but I knew it wouldn't get matched - it was merely a reminder really. The following day, once I'd had a brief look at the event, I changed it. Upping the stake and reducing the price to 44.043/1.
I'd have taken 40.039/1 but he didn't get close to that and I ended up laying him at 21.020/1, along with almost all the players in the field trading at less than 100.099/1. It's sounds like a strange decision but there was method in the madness...
There had been 12 previous renewals of the Puerto Rico and nine winners had gone off at 100.099/1 or bigger. The aforementioned Hovland won last year's renewal at 18.017/1 and two winners had gone off at 55.054/1 so it's been an outsider's event. I wasn't taking 21.020/1 about someone looking for their first PGA Tour win in five years and the tournament record for longshots prospering was the purpose of the lay book.
What was particularly irritating was that, as detailed in the In-Play Blog, I thought Grace was a fair price at halfway, and again after round three, but once I'd made my bed I pretty much needed to lay in it. If I'd have backed the Grace lay back the law of sod would have dictated that he didn't finish eagle-birdie, someone else I'd layed won and all I'd have effectively done is made a bad job worse.
The combination of Hovland's near miss (and his eight on Friday!) and Grace's win made for a tough evening but I'm far more philosophical this morning. The admittedly crude and basic lay system will pay off at the Puerto Rico Open in the long run but when it doesn't, you have to take it on the chin. The fact it was Grace that won was merely incidental really.
The future's bright?
Golf couldn't be in a better place right now with the likes of Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland firmly establishing themselves and it's going to be interesting to see which of the two has the better careers.
This was only Morikawa's third appearance in Florida (his second as a pro) and for a Californian, he putted the Bermuda really well. He ranked second for Putting Average last week and 10th for Strokes Gained Putting and when that happens, he tends to win or go close. Often only average on the greens, Morikawa's putting is just about his only weakness whereas Hovland's Achilles heal is his chipping around the green.
Everyone struggled at times around the Concession Club last week, so hard were the green complexes, but Hovland definitely still has work to do in that department. He ranked a respectable tied 18th for Scrambling (the same as Morikawa) but his brilliant putter often hides how mediocre his chipping can be. It's definitely improving and if he keeps going in that direction, and if Morikawa finds slightly more consistency with the flat-stick, these two look capable of dominating for many years.
The pair are movers in the Betfair Sportsbook's Masters betting - with eight places being paid - Morikawa 23.022/1 and Hovland 34.033/1.
We're back to just one event again this week but fortunately it's another cracker - the Arnold Palmer Invitational - and I'll be back later today or tomorrow morning with the preview.
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