Rickie and Tiger promise an ace Memorial finish
STORY SO FAR
SPENCER LEVIN has never won on the US Tour and has made a habit of blowing up spectacularly when in with a chance to do so, but the diminutive Californian is in pole position in the Memorial Tournament with 18 holes to play.
Levin was a 150-1 outsider ante-post, but is the 11-4 favourite going into round four. He leads Rory Sabbatini by one shot and Rickie Fowler by three.
Next on the leaderboard comes the imposing figure of four-times Memorial champion Tiger Woods. The great man was a 16-1 chance before the event and considerably shorter than that when he hit the front during the early stages of round three.
Four back-nine bogeys, though, took the wind out of Tiger's sails and left him with a four-shot gap to make up on Levin. Woods is 7-2 to notch a fifth triumph at Muirfield Village.
World No. 1 and pre-tournament favourite Luke Donald carded a third-round 75 to slip to 36th spot, 11 shots off the lead.
-8 Spencer Levin
-7 Rory Sabbatini
-5 Rickie Fowler
-4 Tiger Woods
-3 Ryo Ishikawa, Henrik Stenson, Jonathan Byrd
11-4 S Levin, 3 R Sabbatini, 7-2 T Woods, 4 R Fowler, 33 J Byrd, 40 H Stenson, 50 R Ishikawa, 80 bar
RARELY is it viable to suggest that the favourite of a golf tournament with just one round to go can't possibly win, but it is tempting to advise punters to disregard Spencer Levin when assessing the Memorial outright betting.
Levin has the lead and is the bookmakers' favourite, but he has been incredibly poor when in with the chance of shedding his maiden tag in the past, and there is no reason to believe a different man will turn up on the tee today. Some players are shaky when in contention and some players, like Levin, just lose their marbles completely.
Spineless Spencer had a six-shot lead going into the final round of the Phoenix Open in February and capitulated to a 75 to finish third. He relentlessly fidgeted and smoked throughout, graphically demonstrating he lacks the composure to become a US Tour winner.
Levin does not even have a Nationwide Tour victory under his belt and some extraordinary swings over the closing stages of round three suggested the wheels are set to come off his game again at any second.
How Levin can be a shorter price than Woods is beyond me. Conditions are set to be brutal for round four - the greens have dried out and the wind is due to get up - and the four-shot deficit could be wiped out in a couple of holes.
Woods has a final-round scoring average at Memorial of 68.18 and has proven himself down the stretch four times before at this venue. He leads the field for greens in regulation this week and would be in front but for his putter running cold in round three. Tiger's second-round 69 in tough afternoon conditions on Friday was a thing of beauty and bodes extremely well for his US Open chances.
Woods has been suffering with flu-like symptoms this week but battled through them, so that is a concern for his backers. Maybe another 18 holes playing through the pain barrier will be too much. This is a man, though, who famously won a US Open playing on one leg, so physical adversity tends to just galvanise this fearsome competitor.
RPSPORT followers on Tiger at 16-1 and looking for some insurance should be backing Rickie Fowler. The pair will form a mouthwatering penultimate twoball.
Rory Sabbatini is much more experienced than Levin and a proven champion, so he should hold himself together better in the final group and win that match, but the South African is likely to get the jitters should Woods or Fowler ease beside him on the leaderboard.
Fowler is riding the crest of a wave at the moment and bursting with confidence. A twoball with Tiger could not have come at a better time for him. Rickie will be relishing the chance to showcase his talents on the back of four consecutive top-ten finishes on the US Tour, one of which being his maiden victory at Quail Hollow.
Fowler had the lead going into the final round of the 2010 Memorial on his debut, eventually finishing runner-up to Justin Rose, and this course suits him well. It is not hard to imagine this event turning into a ding-dong eyeball-to-eyeball contest between arguably the greatest player in history and a promising youngster who is looking to follow in the great man's footsteps. If you have made plans tonight, cancel them, because Tiger versus Rickie could be one hell of a show.
Scott Stallings was thrilled to play alongside his hero for the first time yesterday and understandably found the occasion too much, but he can be fancied to bounce back to his early-week form and beat Daniel Summerhays today.
Ryan Moore has a superb record at Muirfield Village and should outscore fragile Argentinian Andres Romero in round four, while Ernie Els, who arrived in Ohio straight from a tough week at Wentworth and may be running on empty, looks a vulnerable favourite against improving American youngster Cameron Tringale.
R Fowler, 2pts 4-1 Ladbrokes
R Sabbatini, 2pts 21-20 bet365
S Stallings, 2pts 21-20 bet365
R Moore, 2pts 8-11 Betfred, Ladbrokes
C Tringale, 2pts 6-4 bet365