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Menacing Matsuyama lurking over shoulder of nervous leading duo

Japanese beast on the hunt

Hideki Matsuyama is the Phoenix Open defending champion
1 of 1

Round four
Sky Sports 4, 6pm

The story so far

Byeong Hun An, an ante-post 110-1 chance, leads the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale going into the final round.

An, who won the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour in 2015, is playing mainly on the US Tour this year. The Florida-based Korean was runner-up in the Zurich Classic last year and is hunting a maiden Stateside success.

Martin Laird, a three-time US Tour champion, is in second place, one shot behind An, and Laird is drawing on home advantage. The Scot has lived in Scottsdale for 16 years and could be backed at 80-1 before the off.

Jordan Spieth is sharing 21st place, eight shots off the pace, but Hideki Matsuyama still has serious title aspirations from four behind. The Japanese star is making a strong defence of his Phoenix crown.

Leaderboard

-16 Byeong Hun An
-15 Martin Laird
-12 John Peterson, Graham DeLaet, Michael Kim, Hideki Matsuyama
-11 Marc Leishman, William McGirt, JJ Spaun, Matt Kuchar, Brendan Steele
-10 Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry, Daniel Berger, Louis Oosthuizen

Best prices

2 B H An, 3 M Laird, 6 H Matsuyama, 22 G DeLaet, B Steele, 25 M Kuchar, 28 M Kim, 33 M Leishman, J Peterson, 40 P Mickelson, 50 bar

Final-round advice

Byeong Hun An has made a sensational Phoenix Open debut, underlining his status as a world-class talent, and victory today would be a significant step forward in the 25-year-old's career.

An has already won the US Amateur Championship, and triumphed on the Challenge Tour and European Tour as a professional, and a US Tour breakthrough is the new target on his radar. This is his first year with full Stateside playing rights and he has hit the ground running.

An had a golden chance of victory in his first outing of the year – the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour – but a quadruple-bogey seven at the 12th hole in round four ended his hopes. An clearly relishes desert golf, but he has not won since his Wentworth heroics more than 20 months ago, and this is a massive mental test in front of enormous, boisterous galleries.

Martin Laird is ultra-comfortable at TPC Scottsdale, his home course, and that local knowledge has helped the Scottish ex-pat lie in second place after 54 holes. Laird has twice finished in the top five in this event and is a proven US Tour champion, but his putting often becomes hugely unconvincing under extreme pressure.

Laird had a three-shot lead entering the final round of this event in 2015, but closed the round bogey, double-bogey. He has putted well this week, but Sundays provide a different challenge.

There is definitely scope for the leading duo to tread water in front, making this a wide-open shootout on a low-scoring track, especially with clear, calm conditions expected all day.

The man most likely to take advantage if An and Laird falter is Hideki Matsuyama, who must be licking his lips at the chance to attack from a share of third place. Matsuyama was Racing Post Sport's headline selection at 11-1 and the Japanese ace still has a golden chance of a successful title defence. The general 6-1 is a more than fair price.

It is not just last year that Matsuyama has shown his ability to tame TPC Scottsdale – he was fourth and second in the previous two runnungs. And he arrived this time with more confidence than ever, having spent the best part of four months lifting trophies.

Matsuyama has won four tournaments from the middle of October – two on the Japan Tour, as well as the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Hero World Challenge. He was runner-up in the SBS Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, too, and is bursting with self-belief.

If Matsuyama can make early inroads into the advantage of An and Laird, the world number five would quickly establish himself as tournament favourite. This fearless operator has proven he can handle the intense atmosphere of Scottsdale.

Final-round threeball punters are pointed towards Matsuyama, who looks a solid bet at a shade of odds-on to defeat US Tour maidens Graham DeLaet and Michael Kim in the penultimate match. Matsuyama is a decent bet at 6-1 for anyone yet to have an outright investment.

The final group of An, Laird and John Peterson tees off at 5.50pm UK and Ireland time.

Threeball recommendation
H Matsuyama
3pts 20-23 Coral

It is not just last year that Matsuyama has shown his ability to tame TPC Scottsdale
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