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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Rampant Rahm ready to send his army of fans wild

DeChambeau a dangerous contender

Jon Rahm is hunting his second US Tour title of the year
1 of 1

Sky Sports Golf, 6pm Sunday

Story so far
Rickie Fowler shared the lead at the halfway stage of the Phoenix Open, before slipping three shots behind midway through round three, but the Californian closed with three consecutive birdies to get back at the top of the TPC Scottsdale leaderboard.

Fowler, 14-1 for Phoenix glory ante-post, is one shot clear and 5-2 favourite. World number two Jon Rahm also finished Saturday strongly, with five birdies in his final eight holes, and the Spanish beast is tied for second place with Chez Reavie and Bryson DeChambeau.

Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama withdrew with a wrist injury after round one, while Jordan Spieth missed the cut by a shot, and Justin Thomas dropped eight shots off the pace after some round-three back-nine horrors.

Rahm is 100-30 to delight his army of Arizona fans with a first Phoenix victory, with Daniel Berger, a shot further behind, next in the outright betting at 11-1.

-14 Rickie Fowler
-13 Jon Rahm, Chez Reavie, Bryson DeChambeau
-12 Xander Schauffele, Phil Mickelson, Daniel Berger
-11 Beau Hossler, Bill Haas, Gary Woodland, Chris Kirk, Brendan Steele, Chesson Hadley
-10 Matt Kuchar, James Hahn, Brian Gay, Martin Laird

Best prices
5-2 R Fowler, 100-30 J Rahm, 11 D Berger, 12 C Reavie, P Mickelson, 14 B DeChambeau, X Schauffele, 33 G Woodland, 35 B Steele, 40 B Haas, B Hossler, C Hadley, 50 bar

Final-day advice
Rickie Fowler has blown two golden chances to win the Phoenix Open and the leader certainly carries some mental baggage with him into the final round of this Scottsdale shootout.

In 2010, seeking his maiden US Tour title, Fowler got too cautious over the closing holes, laying up from prime position on the par-five 15th and allowing Hunter Mahan to sneak a one-shot victory.

Then six years later, Fowler had the title at his mercy, two shots ahead with two holes to play, but he pumped his tee-shot into the water at the driveable par-four 17th, went on to find the water hazard on the same hole in a playoff against Hideki Matsuyama, then blubbed his way through a post-round press conference after being defeated by the Japanese raider.

Fowler was desperate to win the 2016 edition – his entire family had come to watch and his ageing granddad had never seen him triumph in the flesh – but his 17th-hole nemesis struck again. He has made a habit throughout his Phoenix Open career of firing balls into the greenside aqua at 17.

Fowler loves the layout and is obviously a superb player – and punters who took the ante-post 14-1 should be on great terms with themselves – but there is no urge to take any 5-2 at this stage. The world number seven has been playing well and was likely to get into contention, but finishing off the job was always going to be the issue at this event.

Fowler will not rest easy until he has passed through the 17th hole, and he may get defensive on the penultimate challenge of the course given his history. It is a relatively straightforward birdie for most of the field. Fowler is the member of golf's elite who has not been a prolific champion – four US Tour titles in nine years as a pro – and this looks a particularly tricky event to finish off.

No mercy is shown by Phoenix spectators – the closing stretch, starting with the notorious par-three 16th, is a bearpit – and Fowler will need to summon huge courage to come through a tight contest. Which it seems sure to be.

There are countless players holding winning aspirations – 13 within three shots of the lead – and little margin for error. A low score is going to be required for victory, with another sunny, calm day forecast.

The 100-30 about Jon Rahm is more appealing than the 5-2 Fowler. Rahm has manfully handled the challenge of the 16th hole, making birdie on Thursday and Saturday, and the Arizona State University graduate is loving every minute of the noisy support. Fresh from victories in the DP World Tour Championship and the CareerBuilder Challenge, Rahm is bursting with self-belief, competing in his home city.

A thrilling duel between Fowler and Rahm, who will be alongside each other in the final threeball, could unfold. But Bryson DeChambeau and Daniel Berger must also be respected. Both DeChambeau and Berger have shown plenty of guts in contention in their short US Tour careers, and both can be expected to retain a winning opportunity until deep in the final round.

Racing Post Sport followers are in a strong position, with Rahm (10-1), Berger (40-1) and Chesson Hadley (100-1), who shares eighth place, onside from ante-post investments. Fowler and DeChambeau are the biggest potential party poopers, so conservative punters with decent positions on the others may choose to take some cover.

Fowler is no value at 5-2, so should probably be left alone, but DeChambeau, winner of the John Deere Classic last year, is fairly priced at 14-1. Nothing much seems to faze the former US Amateur champion, so he is worth adding to the stable. Rahm, Berger, DeChambeau, Fowler and Hadley can contest the main prize. Rahm at 100-30 is the best bet for punters yet to get involved, but DeChambeau is useful cover for those just looking to enhance their chances of success.

Final-round threeball punters are pointed towards Berger, who should take care of Beau Hossler and Bill Haas in the 5.35pm (UK and Ireland time) match. Berger has been thrilled with the quality of his long-game this week and is not the sort of character to be ruffled by this boisterous venue. Hossler may find it all too much on his Phoenix debut, while Haas is working on changes in his putting stroke, which will probably feel uncomfortable under maximum pressure.

Outright recommendation
B DeChambeau
1pt each-way 14-1 Betfred

Threeballs recommendation
D Berger
2pts 6-4 Coral, Ladbrokes

The leader certainly carries some mental baggage with him into the final round of this Scottsdale shootout
E.W. Terms
Sky bet