Justin Thomas has slight edge over high-class chasing pack
McIlroy and Day to apply final-round pressure
Sky Sports Golf, 5pm Sunday
The story so far
Justin Thomas leads the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational by three shots going into the final round at Firestone Country Club, Ohio, the ante-post 25-1 chance firing a Saturday 67 to reach 14 under par.
Thomas is a general 8-11 for victory, with Rory McIlroy, his final-round playing partner, a 7-2 poke. McIlroy is tied for second place with Ian Poulter, who can be backed at 10-1 to cause an upset.
Thomas is seeking a first WGC title. McIlroy has two – including the 2014 Bridgestone – and so does Poulter. Jason Day is four shots behind and the dual WGC-Match Play winner can be backed at 10-1 for a third WGC title.
-14 Justin Thomas
-11 Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter
-10 Jason Day
-9 Marc Leishman, Kyle Stanley
-8 Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm
8-11 J Thomas, 7-2 R McIlroy, 10 I Poulter, J Day, 33 M Leishman, 40 J Rahm, R Fowler, 50 K Stanley, 100 bar
A thrilling Sunday shootout should play out a Firestone under hot, windless skies, with the performance of Justin Thomas the most crucial factor in determining how the final round unfolds.
Thomas is in pole position, with a handy three-shot buffer, and he can quickly eliminate the likes of Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm from the ball game if he makes a fast start. There are eight serious title contenders with 18 holes to play, but Thomas has the ability to halve that figure in a flash.
Thomas has birdied the par-five second hole in each of the first three rounds, so it is reasonable to expect progress there, and he is is total of five under par for the first three holes this week.
Thomas is an eight-time US Tour champion, but only two of those victories have come in top-class fields – the 2017 USPGA and 2017 Dell Technologies Championship – so he is yet to become a seasoned veteran who clinically converts leads like this in elite company.
The comfort of Thomas on those first three holes means he should get away from the starting traps briskly, but Rory McIlroy and Jason Day are close enough and good enough to make inroads on the pacesetter deeper in the round.
McIlroy has got to second place without finding anything close to his top gear, but his putting stroke has looked solid and if his swing clicks in round four, the four-times Major champion should go close to further Firestone glory.
McIlroy is in an identical position to how he started the final round in 2014 – he was at 11 under par, with Sergio Garcia leading the way at 14 under. McIlroy birdied the first three holes of the final round and won by two shots.
Day must be thrilled with his approach-play over the first three rounds. This has been a weakness of the Australian this season, but his iron-shots have been peppering the pins this week, and he is still very much in the trophy hunt.
The final-round prediction is for Thomas to lead for most of the way, with McIlroy and Day slowly but surely threatening parity over the closing holes, and Ian Poulter to be outclassed by all three.
Marc Leishman, who will appreciate the drying ground, could come from deep to put his name among Thomas, McIlroy and Day, but Leishman requires serious fireworks to overcome a five-shot deficit on Thomas.
McIlroy (12-1) and Leishman (66-1) were ante-post each-way Racing Post Sport selections, so fingers crossed that Thomas treads water in front and allows the opportunity of the jackpot being hit.
Final-round twoball punters are pointed towards accurate drivers, as the fairways are getting firmer, faster and more difficult to hit. Austin Cook can account for Satoshi Kodaira in the 2pm contest, while Emiliano Grillo can upset Paul Casey in the 3.20pm match.
2pts 4-5 Coral, Ladbrokes
1pt 11-8 general
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