Odds-on Kuchar foiled by fabulous finish
It was impossible not to feel a bit of sympathy for the 2018 World Wide Technology winner, Matt Kuchar, who must have felt a bit numb on Sunday night after he'd been beaten by Erik Van Rooyen by two strokes.
In search of his first PGA Tour title since January 2019, the 45-year-old had led by six strokes at one stage in round three and he was in the van for much of Sunday's fourth and final round before getting caught and passed right at the death.
Having been matched at a low of just 1.222/9, before he recorded a quadruple-bogey eight at the par four 15th on Saturday, Kuchar had looked the most likely winner at the El Cardonal Golf Course for much of the weekend, but South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen finished like a train to spoil the Kuchar party.
Having played poorly for much of the year, the 33-year-old South African had been creeping into form, finishing inside the top-30 in each of his previous starts but he still went off at around 80.079/1 mark, and he was matched at a high of 50.049/1 after a slow start on Sunday.
Van Rooyen had began the final round trailing the leader, Kuchar, by just a stroke but the gap was increased to three after just one hole in round four when Van Rooyen bogeyed the first and Kuchar birdied it.
He was still three behind Kuchar at the turn and despite birdying the 10th, 11th, 12th and 14th, with Kuchar rolling in birdies of his own, Van Rooyen still trailed by two with three holes to play but the momentum really shifted when the South African holed a lengthy birdie putt at the par three 16th.
He followed the two at 16 with a birdie three at 17 and he put the event to bed with this stunning approach at the par five 18th.
It was an incredible finish and poor Kuchar just couldn't respond. The pre-event 90.089/1 chance parred the last four holes to finish tied for second alongside 1000.0999/1 chance, Camilo Villegas, who had birdied the last two.
What can we takeaway for next year?
The wind picked up fractionally on Saturday afternoon but in what were very unusual benign conditions for the location, El Cardonal was pretty defenceless, hence Van Rooyen's winning score of 27-under-par, but Tiger Woods first design is highly to play much tougher in future.
Although the scoring was sensationally low this year, you had to be right on your game to score.
Stephan Jaegar and Ludvig Aberg were trading at single figures at halfway but they demonstrated on Saturday, with rounds of +3 and level par that this is a tough place if you're slightly off your game and that was in relatively calm conditions.
Prior to the off, I thought the big hitters would be advantaged but that wasn't the case.
The fairways are ridiculously wide and as many as 32 players hit every fairway on day one. Adam Long hit all 58 throughout the entire week but as Kuchar demonstrated on Saturday, one bad drive can be catastrophic.
Justin Suh, who ranked fourth, was the only player in the top-14 to rank inside the top-15 for Driving Distance so it can't hardly be described as a bomber's paradise if this year's renewal is any sort of gauge.
Suh, in fourth, and Ryan Palmer, in tied fifth, ranked first and second for Greens In Regulation and El Cardonal is going to prove to be a second-shot course in the fullness of times.
Although huge, finding the right spots on the greens is essential and although this year's renewal was all about holing putts, I suspect the more accurate iron players will prosper over the hot putters in future.
Slow start helped EVR
It's far from unusual to see a winner begin their final round with a bogey. It often releases a bit of tension and Van Rooyen was probably helped by trailing for much of the day too.
He must have thought victory highly unlikely and that would have helped him to relax to shoot his remarkable eight-under-par 28 on the back-nine.
Another factor that very few would have been aware of was the desperately sad news about his friend, Jon Trasamar, who's gravely ill with cancer.
Van Rooyen and his caddie, Alex Gaugert, both attended the University of Minnesota with Trasamar and they were, understandably, very emotional after the win.
It's always easy with the benefit of hindsight, but one further possible reason for EVR's success was his position in the FedEx Cup standings.
Having began the week on 125, he was in need of a good week to keep his card, but all those concerns are long gone now.
We're off to Bermuda for the sixth of seven FedEx Cup Fall Series events this week - the Bermuda Championship - and the DP World Tour returns after a week off with the Nedbank Challenge.
I've previewed the PGA Tour event here, and the Nedbank here.
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