Golf Betting: Falling Fowl of McIlroy
Both men appear to relish their budding rivalry and the mutual respect they already have for each-other is honourable.
Looking back over the last week, Steve Rawlings has a hunch the golfing world could be witnessing the start of one of it's great rivalries.
Francesco Molinari cruised to a three-stroke victory at the Open de España with a superb final round 67 and Rickie Fowler finally won his first PGA Tour event after edging out D.A Points and Rory McIlroy in a playoff.
It's been a poor week but I've had plenty of distractions and I've no complaints. I've had friends staying for the weekend and with the distraction of a few trips to the Crucible to watch the snooker and yesterday's football, betting wise, it's been a quiet one.
My pre-event picks were very poor at both events this week and my in-play bets not much better. Simon Dyson, backed during day two, will be feeling a bit sore this morning. He pretty much blew the Open de España twice! He held a three-shot lead as he played the final hole of round three but made double-bogey following a perfect drive. Then birdies at the first two holes on Sunday saw the margin of three regained but it all went horribly wrong after that.
Mercifully, I layed Dyson back at 1.91 after he'd played the first two holes but then I foolishly recycled the regained monies by laying Molinari at 1.5, so it was ultimately a case of back in one hand and back out again in the other!
With my attentions very much on St James Park and Manchester City's attempts to win the Premier League title, I shouldn't have got involved really but laying Molinari at odds on with plenty of holes to play has been a profitable strategy on many occasions in the past.
Out of the game at the Wells Fargo Championship, I went out for the evening and didn't look in on the event until the very end. Following City's win at Newcastle, a delicious lamb dinner and several pints of real ale, all was well with the world and I quite enjoyed watching the playoff.
Have we witnessed the birth of the game's next big rivalry?
Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, Seve and Nick Faldo, and occasionally Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have all duelled out many a tournament and last night we witnessed Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy battling it out for a PGA Tour title for the first time.
Without being disrespectful to D.A Points, who would have won the event had he not bogeyed the final hole, the young guns, quite rightly, grabbed most of the headlines. Despite losing, Rory returned to the top of the world rankings and Fowler, who was finally winning his first PGA Tour event, was hugely impressive in the playoff.
All three players hit great drives up the ultra tough 18th fairway but only Fowler could find the tricky front left pin and from just four feet, he made no mistake with the putter.
Both men appear to relish their budding rivalry and the mutual respect they already have for each-other is honourable. "I'm looking forward to playing with Rory for a long time," said Fowler "It's awesome. It's a long wait, but well worth it."
And McIlroy, who also established himself Stateside on Quail Hollow's 18th two years ago when he shot 62 on day four to win by four was even more reverent, "You wouldn't call the 18th today a birdie hole with that pin, for Rickie to go out and play that hole the way he did, he deserved to win."
If last night was a taste of times to come then the game is in safe hands, Tiger Woods or no Tiger Woods.
What have we learnt for next year?
The cream rises to the top at Quail Hollow and six of the ten winners to date are major champions. And what are the chances of that stat changing to seven of the ten by the time they tee it up next year? Rory went on to win the US Open a year after winning this event and it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that Fowler bags a biggy in the next twelve months. I'm confident he'll win an Open Championship or two before he's done and now he knows how to win, it might not be too long before he cracks on and wins a major.
The stats say it's not an easy place to make the running. Jim Furyk, who beat Trevor Immelman (another major winner) in a playoff in 2006, is the only first round leader to go on to win. Tiger Woods is the only halfway leader to taste success and only three third round leaders have gone on to win - Sergio Garcia gave up a six-shot 54-hole lead in 2005! Taking on the pace-setters after each round could result in a cracking book come Sunday evening.
Over in Spain, although Alejandro Canizares and Pablo Larrazabal tied for a distant second place alongside Soren Kjeldsen, yet again the home contingent drew a blank. Only four Spaniards have won the event in the 40 years it's been a part of the European Tour and it may well pay to avoid them again next year.
The Race to Dubai moves on to Madeira for the low-key Madeira Islands Open on Thursday, while in the States we have the 'fifth major' to look forward to as the world's best tee it up at Sawgrass for the Players Championship.