Topwin Golf and Country Club hosted the Volvo China Open for a third time this year and for the third year in-a-row we were treated to a great tournament. Haotong Li delighted the home crowd in 2016, Alex Levy beat Dylan Frittelli in extra-time last year and Alex Bjorkwon by a stroke this time around but the result wasn't decided until the final group played the last hole.
With 18 players within three of the lead, it had looked an open event before round four began but it was England's Jordan Smith who first threatened to take the title, despite beginning the final round in a tie for 19th and four adrift. Smith, who had begun the final round trading at 140.00, was matched at a low of 3.45 when he gave himself a great chance to birdie 17 when leading. He missed that before birdying 18 and it still looked like he may have a slim chance of winning but it wasn't enough.
My pre-event pick, Matt Wallace, ended round three tied for the lead and he birdied the first on Sunday but after a perfect drive on the par five fourth he made seven and he was always up against it after that. In-play pick, Jeunghun Wang, started nicely and he was matched at just 5.00 early on and Spain's Jorge Campillo hit a low of 3.65, after he'd chipped in for eagle on 15, but as the line approached, the title looked like going the way of either Spain's Adrian Otaegui, who was an 85.00 chance before the off, and the eventual winner, pre-event 55.00 shot, Bjork.
Otaegui hit a low of 2.30 in-running but his chance effectively ended at the 17th when he missed a tiddler for par. He and Wallace went to 18 needing an eagle three to tie but it wasn't to be and Bjork went on to win his first European Tour title.
In contrast to the Volvo China Open, the finish to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans was a dull affair. Once the third round leaders, Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown, who were matched early on in round four at only 2.56, had begun to capitulate (eventually finished 15th!) only two pairings ever really looked like winning.
Jason Dufner and Pat Perez hit a low of 3.10 but they trailed Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy after the 10th hole and when neither team could birdie the par five 18th the title went the way of Billy and Scott by a stroke. The winners were generally 65.00 chances before the off but they drifted in-play and someone was lucky enough to be matched at 500.00 for a couple of quid.
Thank heavens for my each-way pick, Lucas Bjerregaard, who finished fast to claim a full place pay out in sixth at odds of 200/1, because I needed cheering up after the way Wallace started!
I wrote in the In-Play Blog that he was the one I felt they all had to beat so his final round was a bitter disappointment after he'd birdied the first. He hit a perfect drive on the par five fourth and I was thinking a birdie there and he could really kick on but instead he hit an appalling second shot in to the trees before hacking out and then duffing a chip! Wallace blamed cameras in the crowd but he appeared to get distracted too easily all weekend. He made a seven at the fourth and lost by two and I couldn't help but feel he really should have won given how incredibly well he putted.
I didn't get involved at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans but having last week's main pick, Horschel, winning just added salt to the wounds.
What Have We Learned This Week?
I really hope we go back to Topwin as it's a fabulous venue. The drivable par four 11th over water is a great hole and the finish to the course creates plenty of drama. The 15th is another drivable par four, the 16th is a tough par three, the 17th is a dangerous, tough par four with water in play, and the par five finishing hole offers up the chance for much drama. The three editions we've had so far have all been great spectacles, so I hope we return and if we do, bear in mind how scorable the course is and how hard it is to make up ground. Smith put in a great run but he still ended up losing by two.
Topwin form looks like it will be worth considering in July when we return to the North Course at the Green Eagle Resort for the Porsche European Open. Like Topwin, the fairways on the North course are generous and the greens are undulating and although it's only staged the event once, we've already got some nice crossover form...
Jordan Smith won the event, beating last year's Topwin winner, Alex Levy, in a playoff, yesterday's runner-up, Adrian Otaegui, finished fifth and Nacho Elvira, who fell away after halfway this weekend, feeling ill, finished 12th in Germany.
Over at the Zurich Classic, two individual winners in the old format, Horschel and Dufner, both contended so that's something to bear in mind next year but I can't say it's an event I'm going to look forward to. The four ball format produces ridiculously low scoring and the foursome format is just really tough and quite hard to watch.
The organisers switched the running order this time so the tournament finished with foursomes instead of four balls but as alluded to earlier, it didn't produce an exciting finish. Anything but.
The walk on music, a new initiative that I'm still perplexed by, was largely awkward, although this clip of Alex Cejka and Ben Crane is probably just about the highlight of a dull tournament.
We've got an even more gimmicky event this week on the European Tour in the shape of the GolfSixes but that worked better than the Zurich for various reasons and I'll be back later today or tomorrow with a preview of that event, as well as one for the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour. The Wells Fargo returns to Quail Hollow again this year and it has all the ingredients of a really great event.