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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Thomas and Fleetwood set for Sunday shootout

FedEx Cup champion looking awesome

Tommy Fleetwood is only two shots behind
1 of 1

Sky Sports Golf, 6pm Sunday

Story so far
Ante-post 100-1 chance Luke List leads the Honda Classic with 18 holes to play, but world number four Justin Thomas is breathing right down the neck of the nervous frontrunner.

Thomas, one shot behind, is a stand-out 11-5 with Betfred to claim an eighth US Tour title. The FedEx Cup champion has won five times in the last 14 months and started the Honda as 11-1 joint-second favourite with Rory McIlroy.

Pre-tournament 9-1 market leader, Rickie Fowler, missed the halfway cut, while McIlroy shares 63rd place, 14 shots adrift. Thomas and Tommy Fleetwood, who eagled the 18th hole in round three to move only two off the pace, are the biggest names on the leaderboard.

List, a 33-year-old US Tour maiden, is 4-1 to convert his slender advantage into a breakthrough triumph. He tees off alongside Thomas in the final twoball at 6.45pm UK and Ireland time.

Former US Open champion Webb Simpson is tied with Thomas for second place, while Tiger Woods is in 11th spot after another encouraging round.

Woods, looking much more like his old self this week, can be backed at 100-1 to overcome his seven-shot deficit and win the Honda for the first time.

-7 Luke List
-6 Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson
-5 Tommy Fleetwood, Jamie Lovemark
-4 Alex Noren
-3 Kelly Kraft
-2 Louis Oosthuizen
-1 Daniel Berger, Rory Sabbatini
Par Dylan Frittelli, Hudson Swafford, Sam Burns, Tiger Woods, Thomas Pieters

Best prices
11-5 J Thomas, 4 L List, 11-2 T Fleetwood, W Simpson, 10 A Noren, 12 J Lovemark, 50 L Oosthuizen, 70 K Kraft, 80 D Berger, 100 T Woods, 200 bar

Final-day advice
Justin Thomas has got into the winning habit over the last year or so and the USPGA champion should prove a formidable opponent for the rest of the title contenders in the Honda Classic final round.

Thomas was brilliant for 16 of his 18 holes in round three, oozing both power and control, and he looks in possession of his A-game for the Sunday shootout at Palm Beach Gardens.

Aside from the par-four sixth hole, where he had a wedge in hand for his approach but made bogey due to an over-aggressive birdie putt, and the par-five 18th, where he hooked his drive and made an ugly par, Thomas provided a Saturday masterclass. Nobody in the field bettered his five-under-par effort and a fast start to round four can be anticipated.

Luke List and Jamie Lovemark, two similar players who both hit their ball a mile, got into a nice rhythm alongside each other in the early stages of their third-round twoball. The wheels came off for Lovemark at the 15th, where he sliced his tee-shot into the water, but List made a fine birdie at the final hole to take pole position for Sunday.

List won on the Tour in 2012 – the South Georgia Classic – but a share of second place in the low-grade 2016 Sanderson Farms Championship is his best finish on the main circuit. He has been in tidy form, but more than a decade as a professional has failed to yield a US Tour title, and it is likely to pressure of the Honda final round will prove too much for him.

Webb Simpson has shown some bright form this term – fourth place at Waialae the highlight – but he is winless since 2013 and is also likely to feel the Sunday pinch.

Local lad Lovemark and in-form Swede Alex Noren are still in the hunt and should not be discounted, but by far the biggest danger to Thomas must be Tommy Fleetwood.

A magnificent last-gasp eagle three propelled Fleetwood back into the thick of things at the end of a remarkable third round – he holed out for eagle at the fourth from 140 yards – and the Englishman has been loving every minute of his first visit to the PGA National track.

Another breezy day is forecast, with the possibility of a couple of light showers thrown in, so the ball-striking authority of Thomas and Fleetwood should mean this dynamic duo should retain their positions on the board.

Fleetwood has never won Stateside, but he was fourth in the US Open last year and the Race to Dubai champion has got used to contending for prestigious honours. This has already been a fantastic Honda debut and a duel with Thomas would be the icing on the cake.

Thomas was the Racing Post Sport headline recommendation at 11-1 ante-post on Wednesday and confidence remains high that the Palm Beach resident can claim glory in front of family and friends. Punters yet to get involved in the tournament should be devouring the stand-out 11-5 offered by Betfred about a Thomas triumph.

Those who followed the pre-tournament advice with a decent wager on Thomas, though, should consider some cover on Fleetwood at 11-2. The cheerful Southport lad is the man with most potential to poop on the party.

Final-round twoball punters should consider a chunky bet on Tiger Woods. It is a joy to be able to make such a suggestion. You have to go back to December, 2013, for the last time Woods played as well as he has this week. The shoots of a fairytale comeback have certainly been planted and he seems likely to outscore an inevitably nervous young Sam Burns today.

Woods is a best-price 6-10 with bet365 to defeat Burns, so only those with extremely deep pockets can make a single pay. Maybe it is not worth the risk given Tiger is still getting used to the physical demands of playing 72 holes in four days.

Outright recommendations
T Fleetwood
2pts each-way 11-2 Betfair, Power

Thomas-Fleetwood dual forecast
1pt 6-1 Sky Bet

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Nobody in the field bettered his five-under-par effort and a fast start to round four can be anticipated
E.W. Terms
Sky bet