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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Thrilling final-round shootout on cards in sunny Boston

Johnson still in the hunt for further glory

Justin Thomas is looking to follow up his recent USPGA triumph
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Story so far

Justin Thomas and Marc Leishman lead the Dell Technologies Championship with a round to go, the pair reaching 12 under par through 54 holes at the TPC Boston.

USPGA champion Thomas fired a superb third-round 63 to charge to the leaderboard summit, while Leishman carded a Sunday 65. The tournament finishes on a Monday to coincide with the Labor Day Bank Holiday in the States.

Thomas, a 20-1 chance ante-post, has become 5-2 favourite. The 24-year-old is chasing his fifth victory of a glorious season. Leishman, an 80-1 shot at the outset, won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. The Australian is 5-1 for TPC Boston joy.

Halfway pacesetter Jon Rahm failed to make any progress in round three, remaining on nine under par, sharing seventh place. Dustin Johnson moved on to the same score with a flurry of late birdies, while Jordan Spieth is one shot better off in a tie for fourth spot.

Leaderboard

-12 Justin Thomas, Marc Leishman
-11 Paul Casey
-10 Jordan Spieth, Grayson Murray, Adam Hadwin
-9 Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm
-8 Patrick Cantlay, Phil Mickelson

Best prices

5-2 J Thomas, 9-2 J Spieth, 5 M Leishman, 13-2 P Casey, 7 D Johnson, 12 J Rahm, 25 G Murray, A Hadwin, 50 bar

Final-round advice

Justin Thomas played beautifully on Sunday and is a wonderful golfer when in full flow, but the youngster has a habit of following brilliant rounds with mediocre ones, so the 5-2 can be left alone.

Thomas might have gone to bed a little cheesed off, despite his third-round heroics. A par at the easy par-five 18th hole was a disappointing finish. He obviously deserves favouritism and is the most likely champion, but with so much quality tucked in just behind, the short price can be passed.

Thomas followed up a third-round 66 with a final-round 72 in the WGC-Mexico Championship in March, then a third-round 63 with a final-round 75 in the US Open in June. Even the Open in July, where he opened with a 67 and followed up with an 80 to miss the cut, showed that consistency is not yet established in the game of Thomas. He led in Mexico by a shot after three rounds, then finished three behind.

Marc Leishman is an underrated player capable of upsetting the bigger names, but the Aussie typically fails to get the job done in elite company. He has had great chances to win prestigious prizes, but seems to lack a grain or two of self-belief when up against the best.

Paul Casey is a regular flop when contending for Stateside titles – the 2009 Houston Open remains his only success – and the Englishman is likely to miss too many putts to emerge triumphant from this high-class leaderboard.

If Thomas wobbles like he did in Mexico, the last time he topped a leaderboard heading into the final round, then Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm seem the most likely players to take advantage.

Spieth has admitted his TPC Boston record is unspectacular, but he did close with a 62 there on his course debut in the 2013 event. Spieth and Rahm, who has putted superbly over the first three days of this tournament, possess the flat-stick confidence to serve up an extremely low final round.

Johnson moved menacingly on to the leaderboard with four birdies in his final five holes of round three. He played rock-solid golf throughout Sunday, narrowly missing numerous other chances to improve his score, and can approach the final round oozing long-game confidence.

Johnson started The Northern Trust, the opening event of the FedEx Cup playoffs, three shots behind with 18 holes to play. He reeled in Spieth and beat his compatriot in a playoff. The difference in the Dell Technologies is that starts round four in seventh place, rather than second, but the world number one is still well in the hunt for back-to-back titles.

Ante-post wagers will dictate Monday betting plans for most punters. This looks a wide-open heat with 18 holes to play, with a gaggle of high-class, well-backed operators in contention. Thomas, Spieth, Johnson and Rahm could provide a thrilling shootout.

Johnson was a Racing Post Sport pre-tournament recommendation at 15-2 and hopes are high that the best player in the field can make his presence felt in round four. The 9-2 Spieth is arguably the best value of those Johnson still has left to beat.

Final-round twoball punters are pointed towards consistent ball-striker Kevin Chappell in the 4.20pm (UK and Ireland time) contest. His opponent, Lucas Glover, is probably feeling the pinch having arrived for the event with an injured and heavily strapped knee. A two-over-par third-round back-nine from Glover hinted that he was ailing.

Spieth should hold himself together better than Casey in the penultimate match (6.30pm). For all his bravado, Casey is nearly always found wanting when under extreme pressure.
Better weather is expected for the final round, with sunshine and moderate breezes. Thomas and Leishman are scheduled to tee off at 6.40pm in the final twoball.

Recommendations
K Chappell
3pts 4-5 general
J Spieth
2pts 8-11 general

He played rock-solid golf throughout Sunday, narrowly missing numerous other chances to improve his score
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