Johnson should cruise to second Sheshan success
Koepka needs final-round fireworks
Story so far
Dustin Johnson missed a short putt for birdie on the final hole of his third round in the WGC-HSBC Champions, but the world number one still swaggered off the green with a six-shot lead.
Johnson followed his superb second-round 63 with a workmanlike 68 at Sheshan International, extending his one-shot halfway advantage over Brooks Koepka. Johnson, a 9-1 chance ante-post, is no bigger than 1-11 with 18 holes to play.
Koepka, alone in second place, can be backed at 20-1 to successfully hunt down the runaway leader. Henrik Stenson is clear third, one shot further adrift, but defending champion Hideki Matsuyama is tailed off. Matsuyama, 10-1 second-favourite at the outset, is tied for 60th place in the 78-runner event.
-17 Dustin Johnson
-11 Brooks Koepka
-10 Henrik Stenson
-9 Justin Rose, Brian Harman
1-11 D Johnson, 20 B Koepka, 33 H Stenson, 66 J Rose, 100 B Harman, 150 bar
Dustin Johnson won this tournament with a record-breaking 24-under-par score in 2013 and the awesome Carolinian giant is on course to post another formidable 72-hole total.
The power-packed Johnson is able to make easy birdies on the four par-fives at Sheshan International. He probably would have made another one at the 18th in round three had he not played defensively with a lay-up from position A, but his heavy advantage at the top of the leaderboard has afforded him to the chance to avoid risk-taking.
The best player in the world leads by six with 18 holes to play on a course he loves, so it is no surprise to see some bookmakers offering just 1-20 Johnson. A breezy final round is forecast, but the leader has always been comfortable competing in wind, so there is no encouragement for the chasing pack from the weather.
Brooks Koepka is an explosive player – an enormous driver who typically putts well – so Johnson will be aware that the job is not completely done. Koepka seems by far the biggest danger to Johnson backers. He could fire something in the mid-60s to give his pal a game, but if Johnson reaches 20 under or better, it will almost certainly be game over.
Expect Johnson to play conservative, safety-first golf over the opening 13 holes. The modern Dustin is more than happy to plot his way around a golf course. He takes few risks these days, often relying on what has become a stellar wedge game rather than forcing the issue.
The beauty of the Sheshan layout for Johnson is that two of the four par-fives – the 14th and the 18th – are in the final five holes. He can play defensively through 13, see what Koepka has thrown at him, then decide how to approach the closing stretch. If DJ needs to step up a gear, he can attack the two par-fives and the driveable par-four 16th. If he is still well ahead, he can coast to the hut staying well away from water hazards.
Racing Post Sport followers are in an excellent position, with 9-1 headline selection Johnson looking like the champion. Cautious punters may choose to take some 20-1 Koepka just in case a dramatic Sunday unfolds, but that will probably just be denting profits.
Final-round threeball punters are pointed towards Tommy Fleetwood for the 2.40am match. Fleetwood leads the Race to Dubai, which means he should scrap for every euro on Sunday, despite victory being out of reach.
The increased difficulty of the course provided by the wind will aid Fleetwood, who is one of the best ball-strikers in the world, so Hyunwoo Ryu and Patrick Cantlay can be defeated.
The final trio of Johnson, Koepka and Henrik Stenson are scheduled to tee off at 3.30am UK and Ireland time.
1pt 7-5 Betfair, Paddy Power
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