Sony Open in Hawaii: Steve Palmer's final-round golf tips
Keith Mitchell ready for breakthrough at Waialae
Sky Sports Golf, 11pm Sunday
Story so far
Matt Kuchar will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii, the pre-tournament 40-1 chance going odds-on with 18 holes to play at Waialae Country Club.
Kuchar led Andrew Putnam by one shot at the halfway stage and they both retained their positions on the leaderboard on Saturday, with Kuchar doubling his advantage.
Kuchar, who ended a victory drought of more than four years when winning the Mayakoba Classic in November, has made only one bogey in 54 holes of Sony action. Putnam, who won his maiden US Tour title last season and has reached a career-high world ranking of 67, wobbled in the middle of round three before a birdie at the final hole brought him closer to the experienced pacesetter.
Justin Thomas is tied for 21st spot, ten shots off the pace, and has drifted to 300-1, while Jordan Spieth missed the cut in his first outing of 2019.
-18 Matt Kuchar
-16 Andrew Putnam
-14 Keith Mitchell, Chez Reavie
-11 Bryson DeChambeau, Corey Conners, Davis Love, Charles Howell, Dominic Bozzelli, Brian Stuard, Hudson Swafford, Ted Potter, Marc Leishman
8-15 M Kuchar, 100-30 A Putnam, 12 C Reavie, 16 K Mitchell, 66 B DeChambeau, M Leishman, 80 C Howell, 150 T Potter, H Swafford, 200 bar
Matt Kuchar is loving every minute of his return to Waialae Country Club, a venue which is made of his talents, and the 40-year-old can dictate how the final round of the Sony Open pans out.
A peculiar looking leaderboard has nine players tied for fifth place, seven shots off the pace. If Kuchar turns up on Sunday and repeats his third-round 66, that would leave him at 22 under par and mean the pack at 11 under would need to shoot 59 to match him.
Kuchar, who made carding 66 look simple, following up his more spectacular pair of 63s, will fancy his chances of producing something in the mid-60s with sunny, calm weather forecast for the finale.
Charles Howell, Bryson DeChambeau, Ted Potter and Marc Leishman have probably all got a flying finish in them, but it will be mission impossible if Kuchar continues to cruise around Waialae in trouble-free fashion.
Kuchar is an eight-time US Tour champion who has been reunited with his regular caddie since the eighth triumph – the Mayakoba Classic in November. Kuchar and trusty bagman John Wood oozed assurance in the final group in round three, looking confident of getting the job done.
The main problem for Kuchar could be a mental one – the potentially unsettling post-round discussion about how much he paid his caddie after his last victory. Rumours are rife that his stand-in bagman, a Mexican local, was handed only $3,000 for his efforts in the Mayakoba success. Kuchar denied the story in his press conference after round three, eager to end the debate, but the accusation of being stingy with his $1.3m winner's cheque will doubtless rumble on through round four of the Sony.
If the same Kuchar who turned up for Thursday, Friday and Saturday arrives on the tee on Sunday, then his pursuers will probably struggle to overcome him. If the angry Twittersphere since labelling him a tight miser results in a lack of calm and focus, the event is wide-open.
Andrew Putnam briefly held the lead in the early stages of round three, before losing his game and composure from the eighth through the 12th. Putnam picked up a shot on Kuchar on the 18th hole and is the biggest danger to the frontrunner, but Keith Mitchell may be worth chancing at a much bigger price.
Mitchell is an explosive player, blessed with enormous clubhead speed, and the benign conditions at Waialae for Sunday should allow the powerhouse to go into all-out attack mode in a bid to capture his maiden US Tour title.
From four shots behind Kuchar, Mitchell should relish the hunt. He has improved as the week has worn on – 68, 65, 63 – and holed a nine-foot birdie putt at the 18th to send him into Sunday full of beans.
Mitchell, who lives on St. Simons Island and enjoys seaside golf, closed with a pair of 67s to finish 25th on his Sony Open debut 12 months ago and the fast improving 27-year-old could become a US Tour champion if Kuchar falters. Mitchell, Putnam and Chez Reavie may be the only ones close enough to the leader to trouble him.
Mitchell is a general 16-1 chance, but Coral and Ladbrokes are offering stand-out each-way terms of a third the odds the first two, which makes him a more than fair each-way option.
Final-round threeball punters are pointed towards Ted Potter, who is well suited to Waialae and can outscore Hudson Swafford and Brian Stuard in the fourth-from-last match at 9.50pm UK and Ireland time.
The final group of Kuchar, Putnam and Mitchell is scheduled to tee off at 10.20pm.
1pt each-way 16-1 Coral, Ladbrokes
1pt 7-4 general
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