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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Jaunty Joakim Lagergren could be the toast of punters

Swedish maiden swinging superbly in Sicily

Lucas Bjerregaard is a threat to the leaders
1 of 1

Sky Sports Golf, 10am Sunday

Story so far
Mike Lorenzo-Vera, a best-price 40-1 for Rocco Forte Sicilian Open glory on tournament-eve, has assumed a two-shot lead with 18 holes to play.

The 33-year-old Frenchman, who won his only Challenge Tour title in 2007 and has never tasted victory on the main circuit, fired a third-round 63 to hit the summit at Verdura Golf Club, Agrigento.

Lorenzo-Vera was a losing finalist for France in the GolfSixes last Sunday, alongside Romain Wattel, beaten by the Irish pair of Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan. A tie for second in the 2008 China Open is Lorenzo-Vera's best finish as an individual on the European Tour.

Joakim Lagergren and Julien Guerrier share second place with one Rocco round to go. Ante-post 14-1 favourite, Andy Sullivan, is in a tie for fifth spot, six shots behind.

-15 Mike Lorenzo-Vera
-13 Joakim Lagergren, Julien Guerrier
-12 Lucas Bjerregaard
-9 Andy Sullivan, Andrea Pavan

Best prices
6-5 M Lorenzo-Vera, 18-5 J Guerrier, 4 J Lagergren, 7 L Bjerregaard, 35 A Sullivan, 66 A Pavan, 300 bar

Final-round advice
Mike Lorenzo-Vera roared home in just 30 shots (five under par) to finish round three with a flourish and the maiden takes great confidence into the Sunday finale.

Lorenzo-Vera has halved his world ranking over the last couple of years, threatening a breakthrough on a few occasions, and the leader has every chance of converting his two-shot advantage into the trophy.

It may be significant that the career highlight of the pacesetter – success in the Challenge Tour Grand Final – came in southern Italy. Something about this part of the world clearly agrees with the charismatic Biarritz boy.

That said, the first European Tour triumph is always the most difficult to deliver, and sensational Saturdays are often followed by sorry Sundays. Lorenzo-Vera will be pleased to see two fellow maidens immediately behind him on the leaderboard.

Joakim Lagergren matched the 63 of Lorenzo-Vera and the Swede has been hugely impressive throughout the tournament, battling well in the fierce winds of the first afternoon, then going 13 under par for Friday and Saturday. The Swede finished third in the Hassan Trophy at the end of last month and is thrilled with the state of his swing.

Lagergren has also won once on the Challenge Tour – the 2014 Northern Ireland Open – but is seven years younger than Lorenzo-Vera and has much more scope for improvement. Lagergren relishes breezy seaside tracks and appears a massive threat to the leader.

Julien Guerrier missed a short par putt at the final hole of round three and is the most suspect putter of the top three. He has holed his share this week, but is traditionally vulnerable on the greens, and could be outgunned by Lorenzo-Vera and Lagergren in a Sunday flat-stick battle.

Pleasant weather is forecast for round four, and scoring should be low, so Guerrier may get left behind if his putter misbehaves.

Lorenzo-Vera and Lagergren can kick on, with Lucas Bjerregaard applying pressure from just behind. The power-packed Dane hit some great shots heading for the hut at the end of round three and last year's Portugal Masters winner has the psychological edge of already being a European Tour champ.

Outright punters should concentrate on Lorenzo-Vera, Lagergren and Bjerregaard. Andy Sullivan and the rest have probably given themselves too much work to do.

Racing Post Sport followers are on Lagergren at 50-1 ante-post and in possession of an excellent investment. Cautious punters may want some cover on Lorenzo-Vera at 6-5 and Bjerregaard at 7-1, but Lagergren is swinging superbly and seems quietly confident about his title chance.

It is worth noting that Lagergren has got into this position despite languishing 46th in the putts per round stats. He is typically fantastic on the greens, so a return to his standard flat-stick form would be deadly if combined with the way he has been hitting his irons in Sicily. Betfred's 4-1 is juicy enough to justify a press-up.

The final threeball of Lorenzo-Vera, Lagergren and Guerrier is scheduled to tee off at 9.15am UK and Ireland time.

Outright recommendation
J Lagergren
1pt 4-1 Betfred

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Julien Guerrier missed a short par putt at the final hole of round three and is the most suspect putter of the top three
E.W. Terms
Sky bet