Jimenez and Ramsay can boss Ballantine's finales
STORY SO FAR
A CONGESTED Ballantine’s Championship leaderboard suddenly turned into a spreadeagled one after Austrian bomber Bernd Wiesberger fired a third-round 65 to go five shots clear at the top.
Wiesberger, who was well backed for last week’s Indonesian Masters before finishing seventh, has done the dirty on punters by saving his best form for the following event. He has carded two consecutive bogey-free seven-under-par rounds and the pre-tournament 80-1 chance is long odds-on to land a maiden European Tour title.
Marcus Fraser, who was chalked up at 50-1 by Ladbrokes on Monday before being consistently supported all week, is alone in second place at nine under par. Last year’s Czech Open winner Oliver Fisher is tied for third alongside Felipe Aguilar, while the experienced duo of Paul McGinley and Miguel Angel Jimenez are locked in fifth place.
The ante-post favourites, Adam Scott and Ian Poulter, are highly unlikely to be rewarding their followers. Scott scraped into the weekend and is languishing in 35th spot, while Poulter is nine shots behind in 11th place and needs to produce some final-day fireworks to have designs on the trophy.
-14 Bernd Wiesberger
-9 Marcus Fraser
-8 Oliver Fisher, Felipe Aguilar
-7 Paul McGinley, Miguel Angel Jimenez
-6 Kidarech Aphibarnrat, Richie Ramsay, David Howell, Alex Noren
4-11 B Wiesberger, 8 M Fraser, 20 F Aguilar, 22 O Fisher, 25 M A Jimenez, 35 A Noren, 40 P McGinley, 50 R Ramsay, 66 bar
BERND WIESBERGER has never won on the European Tour before and is definitely the sort of player who could squander a five-shot final-round lead. The lanky 26-year-old has cut an edgy figure on the few occasions when he has contended before, so he could easily fold in a tight finish.
The Austrian has made serene progress to the head of affairs – he has not dropped a shot for 41 holes – but the Blackstone Course is full of danger and will severely punish any poor swings that day-four pressure almost inevitably produces.
This tournament is a long way from over, but Wiesberger is extremely fortunate the chasing pack is full of weak finishers. Felipe Aguilar typically tightens up at the business end, while Oliver Fisher is one of the most inconsistent operators on the circuit and seems to spend every round on the brink of implosion.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, last year’s runner-up, may have given himself too much to do from seven shots behind, while it is doubtful whether Paul McGinley has enough in his locker to ever win another European Tour event.
By far the biggest obstacle to Wiesberger, and probably the only man capable of denying big Bernd his breakthrough success, is arrow-straight Australian Marcus Fraser. He was absolutely buzzing on the greens in China last week and has carried that flat-stick form to Korea.
Fraser is too often the bridesmaid – he was runner-up twice in his homeland before Christmas – but chasing down a vulnerable frontrunner is a scenario that he should approach with confidenceand relish. Finding fairways is second nature to the Melbournite and he now appears to be wielding a magic wand on the greens, so Wiesberger is going to have his work cut out to fend off his chief pursuer.
Fraser has two European Tourtitles under his belt, one of which came in this tournament and in this country two years ago, so he can draw on that success if the event turns into a duel with the nervous maiden ahead of him.
RPSPORT followers are on Fraser each-way at 40-1, so only aggressive punters will be looking to enhance their investment at 8-1, but that is a more than fair price for anyone not aboard ante-post.
Jimenez should boss his final-round threeball with McGinley and Aguilar, while Richie Ramsay has been playing some typically steady golf and is likely to prove too good for David Howell and Kidarech Aphibarnrat in the third-from-last group on the tee.
Punters who fancy a treble could throw Poulter in at evens to beat Victor Dubuisson and David Oh. The Englishman signed off in style with a 66 in China last Sunday and can be fancied to finish with a flourish again.
M A Jimenez, 3pts 11-10 Betfred, Coral
R Ramsay, 2pts 11-8 Betfred
I Poulter, 2pts Evens general