Golfwise Extra: Oosthuizen 5-4 for first US win
STORY SO FAR
MASTERS punters studying this week’s Houston Open for clues as to who they should be backing for Augusta glory will have noted the struggles of Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood on the greens during yesterday’s third round.
Mickelson missed a tiddler on the 18th green in round two and made the astonishing decision to change his putter for round three. Considering the brilliance of his work on the greens this season, that seemed a massive overreaction to one blip, and the new flat-stick failed to sparkle.A three-putt par from 22 feet at the par-five fourth set the tone for a frustrating day at the Redstone Club, leaving Lefty six shots off the pace with 18 holes to play.
It was the same old story for pre-tournament favourite Westwood,who closed round three with 11 consecutive pars. The Englishman will be delighted with the way he is hitting his ball, but failure to convert chances left him nine shots behind.
Former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is atop the leaderboard after 54 holes, looking to claim a first Stateside success. The man known as Shrek leads by two from Hunter Mahan, with Carl Pettersson and Brian Davis a shot further back in a tie for fourth.
-17 Louis Oosthuizen
-15 Hunter Mahan
-14 Carl Pettersson, Brian Davis
-12 James Driscoll
-11 Ryan Palmer, Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson
5-4 L Oosthuizen, 9-4 H Mahan, 10 C Pettersson, 14 B Davis, 16 P Mickelson, 25 K Bradley, 40 J Driscoll, 50 R Palmer, 80 bar
PHIL MICKELSON often makes some peculiar decisions, but ditching the putter which had served him so well this season is up there with the worst of them. He needed only 22 putts with it in this week’s first round,yet by Saturday he had opted to switch.
Who knows what blade Lefty will emerge with for the final round, but whatever he has in his bag, the six-shot gap is going to prove extremely difficult to overcome. He has been talking a good game about how he feels he has a super-low round in him and is still well in touch, but the leading duo are both superb ball-strikers with plenty of experience, so Phil The Thrill is going to have to produce some serious fireworks.
Carl Pettersson’s ugly swing may mean he struggles to keep up with the quality hitting of Oosthuizen and Mahan today, while Brian Davis is always a bag of nerves whenever he gets the opportunity to win a first US Tour title. The Houston Open then, appears to be a case of Oosthuizen versus Mahan, with a fast-finishing Mickelson trying to sweep past the pair of them.
At the prices, the 9-4 Mahan appeals most. Oosthuizen has never won in America and his putting is far from reliable. Mahan, who recently destroyed the field at the Accenture Match Play and has been holing everything with the putter he picked up there, should be much more confident about finishing strongly at Redstone.
Hopefully defending champion Mickelson can pull a rabbit from his magic hat and reward RPSPORT’s ante-post support, and playing alongside his good friend Keegan Bradley will help, but Mahan certainly looks the man to beat with 18 holes to play.
Ryan Palmer has done well enough in his career to not have to worry about pay cheques and the experienced Texan is a good price at 4-5 to account for the more agitated James Driscoll in the third-from-last group out, while Johnson Wagner, who has carded more under-par rounds than anyone else on the US Tour this season, is a fair price to outscore Y.E Yang.
4pts 9-4 general
2pts 4-5 general
1pt 10-11 general