Irish raiders should go close to Close House glory
Congested leaderboard in the north-east
Story so far
Robert Karlsson leads the British Masters after three rounds at Close House, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Swedish beanpole firing a Saturday 67 to go one shot clear.
Karlsson, a 300-1 rag at the outset, is no bigger than 9-1 to pick up his 12th European Tour victory. The 48-year-old last tasted success in the 2010 Dubai World Championship.
Rory McIlroy has reclaimed favouritism, though, having moved to just two shots behind. The former world number one, who started the week as 8-1 market leader, carded a 64 to surge up the leaderboard.
Five British and Irish players are sandwiched between Karlsson and McIlroy, sharing second place, including halfway pacesetter Tyrrell Hatton. There are seven Englishmen in the top 15, so the north-east masses have every chance of cheering a compatriot to the title on Sunday.
-12 Robert Karlsson
-11 Ian Poulter, Graeme Storm, Tyrrell Hatton, Paul Dunne, Richie Ramsay
-10 Chris Hanson, Shane Lowry, George Coetzee, David Lingmerth, Rory McIlroy
-9 Lucas Bjerregaard, Chris Wood, Lee Westwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick
-8 Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Marc Warren
5 R McIlroy, 13-2 T Hatton, 7 I Poulter, 9 R Karlsson, 12 P Dunne, 14 S Lowry, G Storm, 16 R Ramsay, 18 D Lingmerth, G Coetzee, 25 M Fitzpatrick, 28 L Westwood, 33 C Hanson, 40 L Bjerregaard, C Wood, 90 bar
It is almost seven years since Robert Karlsson held a trophy aloft on the European Tour and it would be a surprise should the veteran manage to fend off an enormous chasing pack at Close House.
There are 14 players within three shots of Karlsson, so he could easily get swamped on a Sunday when the breeze is expected to increase as the day wears on. Karlsson has been in dire form all year, slumping to No. 460 in the world rankings, so should be picked off by at least one of the more confident leaderboard dwellers.
Rory McIlroy is favourite due to his glorious past, but nothing he has produced this season suggests he is a value price at 5-1 to emerge triumphant from this congested board.
Tyrrell Hatton did not look comfortable at the head of affairs, starting and ending his third round poorly, while Ian Poulter made a fool of himself by waiting a couple of seconds before blaming a phone going off for his awful tee shot at the fifth, which resulted in a double-bogey. Poulter is probably too erratic from tee to green to claim the trophy.
George Coetzee closed with a triple-bogey in the Portugal Masters last Sunday and is difficult to trust when in contention for prestigious titles, while Graeme Storm and Richie Ramsay are a pair of plodders who may struggle to produce the fireworks required for victory.
There are question marks against so many of the contenders and it is difficult to be confident about anyone. Racing Post Sport followers have one ante-post selection tied for second spot – 66-1 chance Paul Dunne – and two other selections sharing 12th place (Matthew Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood). Hopes can be high of a place payout, then, and fingers are crossed that Dunne can land a breakthrough victory.
Dunne, Fitzpatrick and Wood are all capable of winning from their position on the board, while Shane Lowry looks a serious threat from a share of seventh. The Irishman posted a bogey-free third-round 66, quickly growing extremely comfortable on a layout which is new to the European Tour.
The 12-1 Dunne and 14-1 Lowry are probably the best options for in-running punters at this stage – Irish eyes could be smiling on Sunday night.
Nothing appeals on the final-round threeballs card, so the advice for the second week running is to hold pre-tournament positions and hope for each-way returns, or something better. The final threeball of Karlsson, Dunne and Ramsay is scheduled to tee off at 11.25am.