Luiten and Guerrier set for Sunday duel
Ante-post favourite still in the hunt
Sky Sports Golf, 8am Sunday
Story so far
Three players are locked together at the top of the Oman Open leaderboard going into the final round – Matthew Southgate, Joost Luiten and Julien Guerrier are looking down on the rest of the field after 54 holes.
Southgate, who enjoyed a hole-in-one at the fifth hole on Thursday, birdied the 18th hole of round three to reach 12 under par. The European Tour maiden, 125-1 ante-post, has shortened to 4-1.
Luiten, a five-time Tour champ, also birdied the 18th to assume 14-5 favouritism. The Dutchman was a pre-tournament 25-1 chance.
Guerrier at 140-1 was the biggest price of the three before the off and that remains the case at this stage, with 5-1 available about the power-packed Frenchman. Guerrier won twice on the Challenge Tour last year, though, and looks well capable of winning in the higher grade.
Ante-post 16-1 favourite Alexander Levy is still in the hunt from three shots behind and is a 9-1 poke going into round four.
-12 Matthew Southgate, Joost Luiten, Julien Guerrier
-11 Chris Wood
-10 Adrian Otaegui
-9 Alexander Levy
-8 Andrew Johnston, Matthieu Pavon
14-5 J Luiten, 4 M Southgate, 5 J Guerrier, 6 C Wood, 9 A Levy, 12 A Otaegui, 33 A Johnston, 35 A Pavon, 66 bar
Joost Luiten is the most prolific tournament winner on the Oman Open leaderboard and fully deserving of favouritism going into the final round at Al Mouj Golf.
Luiten, who was troubled by teeth problems at the start of this year, finished strongly for 11th place in the Maybank Championship last time out, and has also recovered from a slow start to claim a share of the lead in Oman.
Luiten has carded a 66 in each of the previous two rounds, showcasing the control which allowed him to push Sergio Garcia all the way in an Andalucian Masters duel at the end of October.
Chris Wood, who represented Europe in the last Ryder Cup, is a quality player just a shot off the lead, but the Bristol boy has recently switched coaches and is working on swing changes. He closed round three with two consecutive bogeys, having just hit the front, and there is a strong chance that his technique will let him down under intense pressure.
Matthew Southgate also got uncomfortable when he got his nose in front, the Essex man having opened round three with a trio of birdies. The maiden dropped four shots in four holes, before hauling his way back to the top.
Adrian Otaegui, Alexander Levy and Andrew Johnston are European Tour champions who are still in contention, but all three have catching up to do on Luiten. They may have handed the Dutchman too much of a start.
The main threat to Luiten may prove to be Julien Guerrier, who is fresh from the best season of his career and in excellent nick. Guerrier won his first two Challenge Tour titles last term, crediting his new winning habit to the fact he became a father at the start of the year. The 32-year-old has never been more content, on and off the course.
Guerrier was always expected to become a top-class player after winning the Amateur Championship in 2006. That victory at Royal St George's showed his liking for links golf, and the venue this week is known as the Links of Oman. The turf is lusher than that found on a traditional links, but the layout has plenty of links characteristics, and the leaderboard is full of players who typically thrive in this form of the game.
Guerrier finished third at Al Mouj Golf in the 2016 Challenge Tour event there and he is swinging well enough to go even better than that this time. His power-fade drive has been setting him up wonderfully on most holes this week and he has not carded anything worse than a bogey.
Luiten will probably be extremely tough to beat, but Guerrier can provide a strong challenge and threaten an overdue European Tour breakthrough. Guerrier was an ante-post Racing Post Sport recommendation at 140-1, so there is no need for those who took that price to consider the 5-1.
Punters with a decent bet on Guerrier at juicy odds might want to have a punt on Luiten at 14-5 to give themselves some cover. The 5-1 Guerrier and 14-5 Luiten are both fair prices, both of which can be taken by those yet to get involved.
The final twoball of Luiten and Guerrier are scheduled to tee off at 8.12am UK and Ireland time on Sunday. Nothing appeals on the final-round twoball card, so save stake money for outright investments on Luiten and Guerrier.
4pts 14-5 Betfred
Follow us on Twitter @racingpostsport
Like us on Facebook RacingPostSport