As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, the third round of the Valero Texas Open ended with 15 players within three strokes of the lead and with four men tied at the top and it didn’t take long for one of the four, JJ Spaun, to drop out of the lead. The 31-year old double bogeyed the opening hole on Sunday and his price drifted out to 50.049/1.

My 130.0129/1 in-play pick, Brandt Snedeker, who had been one of the four co-leaders through 54 holes, hit a low of 4.67/2 when he gave himself five feet for birdie at the opening hole but he missed the putt and it went from bad to worse after that.

He drifted away after a bogey at the fifth and he was the only man in the field not to record a birdie in round four so it was soon left to the other two co-third round leaders, Beau Hossler and Dylan Frittelli, to dominate the market.

Hossler, who looked the most likely winner early on, hit a low of 2.265/4 and Frittelli was matched at just 3.3512/5 but they weren’t the only ones to trade at fairly low odds…

Matt Kuchar hit a low of 3.211/5, Matt Jones and Troy Merritt came from off the pace to be matched at 5.59/2 and 5.14/1 respectively, and Gary Woodland, who threatened to challenge several times, was matched at a low of 5.14/1 but the eventual winner, Spaun, was the only man in the field to go odds-on.

Spaun recovered quite brilliantly after his disastrous start with birdies at six and eight but the big turning point came here at the ninth when he chipped in for his third birdie in four holes.

Spaun was magnificent after the turn, keeping his calm and holing a couple of testing putts to post a two-under par 34 for a two-stroke victory over Kuchar and Jones.

He’s the ninth first time winner this season, which is quite a tally given we only saw ten in total last season and he’s the first player to win a PGA Tour event after double-bogeying the first on Sunday since Tiger Woods at the US Open in 2008

Spaun was matched at a high of 450.0449/1 when the market first opened but he was generally a 220.0219/1 chance before the off and this is now a very good tournament for outsiders and first time winners.

Spaun was the third triple-figure priced winner in the last four renewals, he’s the 19th first time winner of the Valero Texas Open and four of the last five have been breaking their duck on the PGA Tour.

Mexican form comes to the fore again

The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio is a Greg Norman designed layout so it’s not that surprising that the Norman-designed El Camaleón – home of the World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico – correlates very nicely. Both are wind-exposed layouts.

The 2018 World Wide Technology winner, Matt Kuchar, contended in Texas again this year (also traded at odds-on in this event in 2014), the 2016 Texas Open champ, Charley Hoffman, won at El Camaleón in 2015, the 2012 World Wide Technology winner, John Huh, was runner-up here in the same year, the 2016 winner in Mexico, Pat Perez, has very respectable figures at TPC San Antonio and yesterday’s winner, Spaun, also franked the form. Spaun was third in Mexico in 2018.

Putting is usually the key to victory here and Spaun, having made every putt he looked at inside ten feet over the weekend, ended the week ranked number one for Putting Average.

Although a big outsider before the off, with only ordinary course form figures reading 49-26-MC-MC, Spaun had telegraphed his wellbeing last time out when he ranked third for Driving Accuracy and first for Greens In Regulation when finishing 27th in the Valspar last time out so, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see why he halved in price before the off.

Although it was a dramatic week with lots of change on the leaderboard, Spaun was always there or thereabouts, and he ended every round inside the top-five places.

Spaun now heads for Augusta for his US Masters debut, which I’ve previewed here, but it’s one of my two pre-event picks, Jordan Spieth, that looks to have telegraphed his wellbeing better than anyone else that teed it up in Texas.

Spieth is still trading at a solid 24.023/1 to win his second US Masters but it looks like only a matter of time before Justin Thomas gazumps Jon Rahm at the head of the market.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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