AT&T Pebble Beach round four: Singh's collapse burns foolhardy punters
If you’ve ever monitored an in-play betting market or tables like the ones I produce, you might wonder who the generous souls are that lay players right down to the wire when they are clearly home and hosed. The squeals of anguish and gentle sobbing of Vijay Singh backers who didn’t “lay off” their profits when his price hit the floor Sunday will give you a strong clue.
Singh’s price went right down to 1.05 amid such complacent forum statements as “Who on earth is going to beat him?” and “All over … can’t imagine him losing from here". Heck, even the broadcast commentators were handing it to the Fijian well before the turn (although XM radio does this so often these days I’m beginning to see a useful betting pattern emerging). So rather than playing safe and laying back to cover their bets at minimum cost, many punters sat on their hands until it was too late and Singh had bogeyed his way to disaster down the back nine.
Even so, to be a Singh layer on Sunday surely called for nerves of steel as he turned the corner for home with a three shot lead. It wasn’t his putting that let him down - that was the best it had been all week - nor in truth his irons, though he had by far the worst day for finding greens at just 67%. It was three errant tee shots that left him high and dry (the bogey on the 14th was just sheer bad luck). So we saw something very rare in golf - a Vijay “choke” as his swing went to pieces.
You have to applaud Steve Lowery’s aggressive pursuit of the great man - the only player of the leading pack who seemed to have a clue what to do. Even he must have thought the gods were against him, though, when Singh produced that miracle playoff shot to dig his ball out of the bunker and get up and down for par. Lowery’s answering 10ft putt for victory was a superb pressure play.
What a rum tournament that was though, even by pro-am standards, with none of the big names coming to the party until Singh decided to take charge on Saturday. What with Ernie Els flopping elsewhere, you start to despair of anyone giving Tiger Woods a half decent run for his money this season.
Maybe when they have honed their craft at this level a bit more it will instead be one of the intriguing new crop of players: the likes of Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Nicholas Thompson and Y E Yang who did so well this week, although lacking the killer bite. They were either overawed by proceedings Sunday or maybe just playing safe to protect their earnings. Once they have got some money under their belts, I trust they will note how Lowery struck out fearlessly to beat the unbeatable.
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