Thomas and Johnson look set to duel for Mexico glory
Powerful American duo moving up the gears
The story so far
Justin Thomas leads the WGC-Mexico Championship by a shot going into the final round, the brilliant youngster enjoying a hole-in-one on his way to a third-round 66.
Thomas, winner of three US Tour titles this season, made a sluggish start in Mexico on Thursday. Back-to-back 66s, though, have put the Kentucky man atop the leaderboard at 12 under par.
Thomas was a best-price 35-1 at the start of the week, then drifted to 40-1, recent form figures of MC-39-MC putting most punters off. The power-packed swinger, awesome in Hawaii at the start of the year, is no bigger than 13-5 for Mexico glory with 18 holes to play.
World number one Dustin Johnson remains tournament favourite, though, having overcome early-week putting woes to sit just one shot behind. The ante-post 7-1 market leader is a 2-1 chance to collect a 14th US Tour title.
-12 Justin Thomas
-11 Dustin Johnson
-10 Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson
-9 Lee Westwood, Jon Rahm
-8 Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters
-7 Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, JB Holmes, Daniel Berger
2 D Johnson, 13-5 J Thomas, 4 R McIlroy, 11 P Mickelson, 16 J Rahm, 33 J Spieth, 40 L Westwood, T Hatton, 55 T Pieters, 70 T Fleetwood, 100 bar.
The inaugural Mexico Championship has been a huge success, boasting a great course and enthusiastic galleries, and some of the best players in the world have risen to the occasion. A thrilling final-round shootout seems in store at Club de Golf Chapultepec.
Justin Thomas has every chance of delivering a fifth US Tour ante-post winner in a row for Racing Post Sport followers. Thomas, advised at 35-1 on Wednesday, was unlucky to miss two recent cuts by a shot. And he played well at Riviera from a poor set of tee-times.
His putting stroke has been back on point at Chapultepec and this ball-striking colossus could easily kick on from the front.
Thomas won the SBS Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open from the front in Hawaii in January and should not be flustered by his lofty perch on the leaderboard. He obviously has lots of quality rivals tucked in just behind, but is confidence he can mix it with anybody these days.
Dustin Johnson is the biggest threat to Thomas backers. Johnson missed a succession of short putts in round one, yet still posted an under-par score, testament to his long-game class. The world number one has been working overtime on the practice range this week, dialling in his yardages at the considerable altitude, and he has been impressive from tee to green.
Rory McIlroy is a surprising name in contention, given he has just spent six weeks resting a rib stress fracture. McIlroy can be proud of the way he has returned to competition with a bang – and his swing looks in good condition – but overcoming Thomas and Johnson may be beyond him at the moment. McIlroy's third-round 70 was scrappy and he has been inconsistent with the putter.
It would leave a sour taste in the mouth should Phil Mickelson end up lifting the trophy. Mickelson took advantage of the rulebook to great extremes at the start of his back nine in round three, escaping serious punishment for three horrific drives.
Mickelson sliced his ball miles left at the tenth and it was nowhere to be seen, then a young spectator said he saw somebody pick it up. Suddenly Mickelson was playing his second shot, without penalty, from a perfect lie. Hooked drives at the 11th and 12th flew into bushes, looking 99 percent unplayable, but a Mickelson charm offensive secured free drops on both occasions. The darling of the galleries said he was standing on sprinkler heads.
Had Hideki Matsuyama, for example, or somebody else without the communication skills and front of Mickelson hit those three tee-shots, then three penalty shots would have almost certainly resulted and probably a five-over-par three-hole stretch. Instead, the colourful Californian dropped only one shot and went on to card an under-par back-nine.
Mickelson should drop out of contention unless he improves considerably with his driver overnight. A Thomas versus Johnson duel may be on the cards, with Jon Rahm a potential dangerman from just three shots off the pace. Rahm, another ante-post Racing Post Sport selection at 30-1, is full of form and confidence and enjoying the layout.
Punters with decent investments on Thomas and Rahm may want to consider some cover on Johnson at 2-1. Anybody finishing ahead of Johnson will probably be leaving Mexico with a trophy.
Final-round threeball punters are pointed towards Rahm, who can take care of Mickelson and Lee Westwood in the penultimate match (5.59pm UK and Ireland time). Sergio Garcia (5.26 against Daniel Berger and Ross Fisher) and Jordan Spieth (5.37 against Matt Kuchar and JB Holmes) also look strong threeball favourites.
2pts 6-4 Hills
2pts 6-5 Coral, Sky Bet
2pts 11-10 Hills