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Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Johnson can catch Sharma and remain the king of Mexico

Indian youngster set to feel the pressure

Dustin Johnson is well in the hunt
1 of 1

Sky Sports Golf, 5pm Sunday

Story so far
Justin Thomas was the star of the WGC-Mexico Championship third round, the world number three firing a course-record 62 to surge back into contention, but Shubhankar Sharma remains the surprise frontrunner.

Sharma, a 200-1 chance at the start of the week, with only 13 players below him in the betting, has forged a two-shot advantage through 54 holes, and the 21-year-old Indian is 9-2 for a remarkable triumph on his WGC debut.

Sharma, the youngest player in the field, will play alongside the oldest, Phil Mickelson, in the final Mexico threeball. Mickelson is tied for second place with Tyrrell Hatton, Sergio Garcia and Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

World number one and defending champion, Dustin Johnson, is lurking just three shots off the pace, but Jordan Spieth needs serious Sunday fireworks from six behind. Johnson is a 6-1 chance, with Spieth at 66-1.

Leaderboard
-13 Shubhankar Sharma
-11 Tyrrell Hatton, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Rafael Cabrera-Bello
-10 Pat Perez, Dustin Johnson, Brian Harman, Xander Schauffele
-9 Justin Thomas
-7 Tony Finau, Marc Leishman, Charley Hoffman, Jordan Spieth, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Brendan Steele

Best prices
9-2 S Sharma, 6 S Garcia, D Johnson, 13-2 P Mickelson, 17-2 T Hatton, 10 R Cabrera-Bello, 14 J Thomas, 18 X Schauffele, 20 P Perez, B Harman, 66 J Spieth, 125 bar

Final-day advice
Dustin Johnson has a supreme World Golf Championship record and the shape of the Mexico Championship leaderboard gives the South Carolinian giant an excellent opportunity of claiming more WGC glory.

Johnson won this event last year despite missing several short putts, and a similar story could be unfolding at the Chapultepec Club this week. Johnson has again seen numerous putts slip past the cup, but the quality of his ball-striking has been enough for him to stay bang in contention.

Johnson has won five WGCs – all of the four WGC titles are on his ultra-impressive CV – and the mega-bucks gatherings seem to bring focus to a player who can let his mind drift in lesser tournaments. DJ is particularly determined in lucrative events this year, eager to set himself up for success in the FedEx Cup, a prized pot which has so far eluded him.

Johnson is playing well enough from tee to green to retain his Mexico crown, and holing a birdie putt from 21 feet on the final hole of round three will have done wonders for his flat-stick confidence going into Sunday.

The world number one can be expected to birdie the par-four first hole, which is comfortably in range for him off the tee, and attack Shubhankar Sharma from two shots behind with 17 to play. The 6-1 Johnson holds plenty of juice given how unsurprising it would be to see the leader buckle under the pressure of the situation.

Sharma has been hugely impressive up to this point, keeping his composure throughout, but it is a massive step from winning the Joburg Open and Maybank Championship to an event of this stature. This is the first truly elite gathering in which Sharma has competed and that inexperience seems likely to tell eventually. If Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Johnson and Justin Thomas are charging at him on the back-nine, the newcomer would have every right to crumble.

Mickelson did not even know who Sharma was when the Indian approached him on the practice green prior to round three – the American had to later apologise after rebuffing the tournament leader, who he assumed was a member of the media requesting an interview. That mix-up underlines how rapid Sharma's rise has been and how uncomfortable he could become in this company.

Johnson is fractionally shorter than he was at the start of the tournament, but a more appealing wager at this stage. Several class acts have given themselves too much catching up to do in round four, and Johnson is only one shot off second place, with a vulnerable leader to catch.

Expect Johnson, Thomas and Jordan Spieth to go low in the final round, with DJ, the closest of the all-star trio to the lead, having the best hope of title success.

Final-round threeball punters are pointed towards Spieth, who closed round three in style, with three birdies in his final four holes. The former world number one should account for Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Charley Hoffman in the 5.37pm (UK and Ireland) match.
Sharma, Mickelson and Hatton are scheduled off at 6.25pm in the final threeball.

Outright recommendation
D Johnson
3pts 6-1 Betfred, Betway

Threeball recommendation
J Spieth
3pts Evens Boyles, Sky Bet


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Johnson won this event last year despite missing several short putts
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