Formidable frontrunner Spieth set for Trust triumph
Putting prowess takes the leader clear
Story so far
Jordan Spieth gained an extra layer of confidence from his gutsy Open Championship victory last month and the young master has swaggered to the top of The Northern Trust leaderboard in New York this week.
Spieth, who overcame final-round adversity at Birkdale before claiming the Claret Jug with sensational golf over the closing stretch, has been oozing self-belief at the Glen Oaks Club over the first three days of the opening FedEx Cup playoffs event.
Spieth, 12-1 second-favourite ante-post, has reached 12 under par through 54 holes, assuming a three-shot lead, and the 24-year-old Texan is no bigger than 4-9 to secure the title. World number one Dustin Johnson is alone in second place and a 4-1 chance.
Pre-tournament market leader Hideki Matsuyama missed the cut by a shot, while FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy is sharing 34th place, 12 shots off the pace.
-12 Jordan Spieth
-9 Dustin Johnson
-7 Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Jon Rahm, Matt Kuchar
-6 Keegan Bradley
-5 Kevin Chappell, Justin Rose
-4 Jason Dufner, Justin Thomas, Chez Reavie, Patrick Cantlay, Russell Henley, Bubba Watson, Jhonattan Vegas
4-9 J Spieth, 4 D Johnson, 25 J Rahm, 28 P Reed, P Casey, M Kuchar, 70 K Bradley, 110 bar
Another sunny day with hardly any breeze is forecast for Glen Oaks, meaning those chasing Jordan Spieth are likely to require a barrel load of birdies to trouble him.
Spieth has been enjoying the freedom afforded off the tee at Glen Oaks, allowing his strengths to flourish, namely iron-play and short-game skills. His approach work has been magnificent and his putting, bar a blip at the ninth hole yesterday when he three-jabbed from eight feet, has been absolutely superb.
It is difficult to imagine Spieth failing to make plenty of birdies in round four, particularly on the back-nine, on which he is ten under par for the week. That means something seriously special is required from those at seven under par or worse. Giving a buzzing Spieth a five-shot headstart over just 18 holes is surely too much, even for a player of the calibre of Jon Rahm.
The ever impressive Rahm seems the most likely to make a charge from the pack tied for third place – although Paul Casey, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar also deserve respect – but it is likely to be fruitless with regards to the trophy. Unless Spieth dramatically and shockingly loses his form, Dustin Johnson appears the only man who can beat him.
Spieth has won on all five of the previous occasions when he has taken a two-shot lead or better into the final round. He has won nine of the last ten times he has led going into the final round. The 2016 Masters stands out like a sore thumb.
In-running punters need deep pockets to support Spieth at this stage, but 4-9 is a fair price about a fantastic frontrunner. The Racing Post Sport pre-tournament headline selection at 12-1 looks to have a gilt-edged chance of obliging.
Punters with a decent stake at 12-1, though, must think long and hard about whether to have some cover on Johnson. The world number one has slowly but surely rediscovered his pre-Masters form and closed with a brilliant birdie in round three to stay well in the hunt for Northern Trust glory.
Johnson at 4-1 is worth a bet for cautious punters seeking to sure up their position. His power advantage over Spieth is significant on a course of this length and he obviously has the ability to overcome the three-shot deficit.
That said, the short-game power of Spieth is likely to prove decisive. A telling comment was made by Johnson in his post-round interview. He said: “Maybe some of his putting will rub off on me and I'll start holing them.”
Johnson already appears to be feeling the pressure of dealing with Spieth's red-hot flat-stick – it is a nightmare to have an opponent dropping bombs from everywhere – and it is the Open champion's putting prowess which leaves his pursuer with such a difficult task.
Final-round twoball punters are pointed towards USPGA champion Justin Thomas, who is not being given enough respect with a quote of 8-11 to beat Chez Reavie. Thomas has failed to click over the first three days, but it was interesting to note that he described the back-nine at Glen Oaks as “easy” after his round yesterday and said that he believes a round of 61 is up for grabs.
If Thomas finds his normal game in round four – something close to the one which made him a Major champion last time out – then limited plodder Reavie should be left well behind. The final twoball of Spieth and Johnson is scheduled to start at 6.55pm UK and Ireland time.
2pts 8-11 Betfair, Power