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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Jordan Smith can lay down strong challenge to pacesetting Pepperell

Walton Heath set for a Sunday soaking

Jordan Smith is tied for second place
1 of 1

Sky Sports Golf, 10am Sunday

Story so far
Eddie Pepperell has dominated the British Masters through three rounds, the Oxford man taking a three-shot lead into Sunday.

Pepperell, who was a top-price 30-1 for Walton Heath glory ante-post, enjoyed a spectacular hole-in-one in his first round and has reached nine under par after 54 holes.

The leader is no bigger than evens to successfully complete the job and secure a second European Tour title. Pepperell shed his maiden tag by winning the Qatar Masters at the end of February.

Justin Rose, pre-tournament 7-1 favourite and event host, is in a tie for 19th place, with an eight-shot deficit to make up on Pepperell. Rose can be backed at 100-1 for victory.

Leaderboard
-9 Eddie Pepperell
-6 Alexander Bjork, Julian Suri, Julien Guerrier, Jordan Smith
-4 Andrea Pavan, Matt Wallace
-3 Adrien Saddier, Trevor Immelman, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Lucas Bjerregaard

Best prices
Evens E Pepperell, 8 J Suri, 9 J Smith, 10 A Bjork, 14 J Guerrier, 20 M Wallace, 33 M Fitzpatrick, A Pavan, 40 L Bjerregaard, 66 bar

Final-day advice
Some Sunday morning thunder seems set to delay the final round of the British Masters and Eddie Pepperell looks like he will have to overcome some challenging conditions if he is to land a home win.

Much of round four appears likely to be blighted by heavy rain, lengthening Walton Heath and increasing the scope for loose swings. Power could be of more advantage than in previous rounds, leaving Pepperell vulnerable to attack from the sluggers behind him.

Pepperell is most comfortable on firm layouts where he can tickle his way round with lots of three-woods off the tee, and a fast-running Walton Heath has proved right up his alley. After the forecast morning deluge, the bigger hitters lurking just behind him on the leaderboard may apply Sunday pressure to the long-time frontrunner.

Julian Suri is the most powerful of all, but the Florida-based American does not have much experience of competing in heavy rain. Last week's Dunhill Links champion, Lucas Bjerregaard, should make a Sunday charge, but the Dane may have given himself too much to do from six shots behind.

Hopes are high that 50-1 ante-post selection Andrea Pavan can deliver some place money from a share of sixth place, but victory hopes are remote from five shots off the pace. The best way of taking on Pepperell at this stage is arguably through Jordan Smith, the Bath boy who has rediscovered form over the last few weeks and looks extremely dangerous from a share of second place.

Smith won the 2015 EuroPro Tour Order of Merit, the 2016 Challenge Tour rankings, then won his maiden European Tour title last year. A quiet 2018 has followed, but steady results of 36-20-10-27-32 from his last five events have been encouraging, and three under-par rounds at Walton Heath have continued the good work.

Smith is eight under par for the back-nine this week, so if he can stay close to the lead making the turn in round four, his comfort on the closing stretch could prove decisive. He has shown plenty of bottle at all levels in his career and the 25-year-old will relish the task of reeling in compatriot Pepperell.

From tee to green, Smith is one of the best operators on the European Tour, and the slowing of the dancefloors on Sunday should help him get more reward for his long-game class.

The final twoball of Pepperell and Alexander Bjork is scheduled to tee off at 1.10pm, but the expected morning thunder looks likely to cause delays.

Outright recommendation
J Smith
2pts each-way 9-1 Hills

His comfort on the closing stretch could prove decisive
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