Get Kisner and Thomas onside for the US Tour finale
Casey could be vulnerable frontrunner
Story so far
Paul Casey leads the Tour Championship by two shots heading into the final round at East Lake, Georgia, and the Englishman is also first in the projected FedEx Cup standings.
Casey was a 20-1 chance for Tour Championship glory on tournament-eve, but is no bigger than 5-4 with 18 holes to play, having reached 12 under par through three rounds.
American duo Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele are tied for second place, and there is a three-shot gap to those in fourth. Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Justin Thomas are the high-class trio sharing fourth place.
Jordan Spieth endured another difficult day in round three, missing a three-foot putt on the 12th, leaving himself eight shots adrift of Casey. Spieth is 80-1 to fight back and triumph, while Dustin Johnson, who is on the same score, can be backed at 100-1.
-12 Paul Casey
-10 Kevin Kisner, Xander Schauffele
-7 Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas
-6 Jason Day, Jon Rahm
-5 Russell Henley, Justin Rose, Gary Woodland, Webb Simpson
-4 Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth
5-4 P Casey, 9-2 K Kisner, 5 X Schauffele, 14 J Thomas, 25 B Koepka, 28 P Reed, J Day, J Rahm, 66 J Rose, 80 J Spieth, 100 bar
The leaderboard is a fascinating one with a round to go at East Lake, and the 5-4 favourite makes no appeal whatsoever.
Paul Casey looked flushed in an interview after his first round on Thursday when a brutal questioner highlighted the Englishman's excellent first-round scoring average and his terrible Sunday one. Casey seemed embarrassed, and acutely aware, of his recent inability to perform under Sunday pressure.
Nobody has been scoring better on Thursdays than Casey, but when the trophies and cheques are about to be handed out, he has wilted. He has won only one title in a long Stateside career (2009 Houston Open) and there is no reason for thinking anything will change in this tournament.
Casey's swing seems likely to tighten up in round four, and his putting will probably become less positive. Talk in his post-round press conference on Saturday night about how this “would be the biggest victory of my career” was unguarded and unhelpful. There is an awful lot of golf to be played before Casey has his hands on the trophy.
In-running punters at this stage almost have two tournaments to evaluate – with Casey, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele detached from the main pack. Unusual betting tactics are recommended.
Typically only one wager is advised prior to the final round when pre-tournament selections have failed to get into contention. Jordan Spieth, sharing 13th spot, and Russell Henley, tied for ninth, have much work to do if they are to justify the ante-post each-way support, so further action is required. Two new bets rather than just one is the preferred strategy, though, given the shape of the leaderboard.
Kisner is the best value option in the leading trio at 9-2. The former University of Georgia star was a tempting 125-1 chance ante-post, a price built around ragged recent performances which are easy to forgive. The four average results (42-54-53-67) were probably a combination of a reaction from failing to convert a final-round lead in the USPGA, along with family distractions. His first son was born a couple of weeks ago.
It is better to come to the party late than never, and Kisner, happy and calm after the safe arrival of Henry James, still has plenty of juice at 9-2. The fact he took a 25-minute helicopter journey to Georgia to watch a gridiron game after his third round underlines his relaxed approach to the task ahead.
Accuracy and touch are the keys to success at East Lake, and Kisner possesses both in spades. Casey could go out like a light, which would galvanize playing partner Kisner in the final pairing.
Schauffele is right when he says he has “nothing to lose”. It has been a meteoric rise up the world rankings for the 23-year-old, who has moved from 352nd to 66th in the space of ten events. But the penultimate pairing of a Tour Championship, playing alongside the US Open champion with a fortune on the line, will surely severely test the rookie's intention to stay relaxed.
Kisner, a two-time US Tour champion who fended off Spieth and Jon Rahm to win at Colonial in May, is the pick of the front three. But there is obviously a chance that all of the leading trio wobble under the intense pressure of pacesetting in such a prestigious and lucrative event. If Casey, Kisner and Schauffele all tread water, expect Justin Thomas to take advantage.
Aside from one horror swing on the 14th tee in round three, a low hook into the trees, Thomas has played stellar tee-to-green golf throughout. With a bit more luck on the greens, the USPGA champion would have both Tour Championship and FedEx Cup glory at his mercy.
Thomas reacted well to his setback on the 14th hole – playing the final four holes in two under par, closing with a textbook two-putt birdie at the par-five 18th. Given the quality of his long-game play this week, and the confidence he has gained from winning five times this season, a serious final-round charge can be anticipated.
Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Jon Rahm may also finish with a flourish, but Thomas is the most likely to throw down the gauntlet to the front three. A win bet on Kisner and an each-way investment on Thomas seems a strong way to attack the East Lake denouement, while still praying that Spieth and Henley can conjure the spectacular final round they need for an each-way place.
Kisner at 7-4 to beat Casey (6.50pm UK and Ireland time) is the most attractive final-round twoball price, but outright staking is the preferred course of action.
4pts 9-2 Betfred
1pt each-way 14-1 Betfred