Power-packed Noren can set the St Andrews target
STORY SO FAR
SOUTH AFRICAN ace Branden Grace got a fresh injection of confidence when winning an event on the Sunshine Tour last week and the assured 24-year-old has carried that form to the Dunhill Links Championship.
He leads by four shots with 18 holes to play.
Grace destroyed the field at the Vodacom Origins of Golf, which concluded last Friday, carding a final-round 68 in tough conditions to finish three shots ahead of the runner-up and eight ahead of the man in third. That effort came on The Links at Fancourt and provided a perfect tune-up for links combat in Scotland.
This season has already been sensationally good for Grace - you could say his prayers have been answered - and he has won three European Tour titles (Joburg Open, Volvo Golf Champions and China Open).
A triumph at the Home of Golf (after three days alternating between St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, the top 60 and ties all gather at St Andrews for the final round) would trump them all though.
Having been 50-1 at the outset, Grace is no bigger than 2-5 to convert his advantage into victory. Thorbjorn Olesen, also a 50-1 chance ante-post, is alone in second place and biggest at 5-1 to secure his second win of the season. Pre-tournament favourite Louis Oosthuizen missed the cut, along with well backed Ryder Cup hero Paul Lawrie.
-20 Branden Grace
-16 Thorbjorn Olesen
-15 Alex Noren, Fredrik Andersson Hed
-14 Stephen Gallacher, Joel Sjoholm
-13 Thongchai Jaidee, Danny Willett
-12 Raphael Jacquelin
2-5 B Grace, 5 T Olesen, 10 A Noren, 14 F Andersson Hed, 25 S
Gallacher, 40 J Sjoholm, D Willett, 50 T Jaidee, 80 bar
BRANDEN GRACE made a brilliant birdie at his final hole at Carnoustie in round three to maintain a comfortable lead and stick another nail into the coffin of the chasing pack. He has set the pace since his barnstorming 12-under-par 60 at Kingsbarns on Thursday and looks in no mood to relinquish his advantage.
RPSPORT followers are in a strong position, with both Grace and second-placed Thorbjorn Olesen recommended at 50-1 on Wednesday.
Safety-first operators will no doubt be laying plenty of Grace at odds-on, but those who prefer ‘aggressive-hedging' will be making a beeline for Alex Noren.
There was some 40-1 floating about for Noren on Friday night, before his third-round 65 at Kingsbarns, but the 10-1 available now is a perfectly acceptable safety-net for those who are on Grace and Olesen at fancy prices.
Noren was a tempting 66-1 ante-post because of his ability to shoot super-low scores on easy courses and the power-packed Swede may well set a target at St Andrews which puts the willies up Grace and Olesen.
Grace, Olesen and Noren are the likeliest winners, in that order, but more cautious punters may want an investment in Fredrik Andersson Hed too, a streaky player who could also challenge from five shots behind.
Stephen Gallacher and Joel Sjoholm do not hole enough putts to be considered with a six-shot deficit on an easy course. It looks safe to call this a four-runner affair.
Ernie Els adores links golf, loves this tournament and has slowly warmed to his task this week. The Open champion is worth backing to win his 9.52am threeball against David Drysdale and Lorenzo Gagli when prices become available.
Most groups feature three professionals for round four, but there are only two in the final two matches (Andersson Hed and Noren, Olesen and Noren), along with their amateur partners.
A Noren 1pt each-way 10-1 general
Threeball recommendation when prices are available
E Els 1pt