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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Wily old fox to boss nervous maidens for Lone Star State glory

Final-hole birdie puts Johnson in charge

Trey Mullinax fired an incredible third-round 62
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Sky Sports Golf, 6pm Sunday

Story so far
Zach Johnson and Andrew Landry are tied at the top of the leaderboard with 18 holes to play in the Texas Open at TPC San Antonio.

Johnson, two-time Major champion, 12-time US Tour victor and five-time Ryder Cup star, is a general 7-4 to notch his fifth win in Texas. He could be backed at 50-1 ante-post.

Landry, available at 200-1 at the start of the week, is a general 3-1 to claim a maiden US Tour title at the age of 30.

Trey Mullinax fired a course-record third-round 62 to charge up the leaderboard. The 25-year-old Alabama boy covered his final five holes in six under par, making two eagles, in an astonishing burst of scoring. Mullinax is one shot behind and 13-2 for a maiden triumph.

Leaderboard
-13 Zach Johnson, Andrew Landry
-12 Trey Mullinax
-11 Ryan Moore
-9 Sean O'Hair, Jimmy Walker, Chris Kirk, Martin Laird
-8 Richy Werenski, Grayson Murray

Best prices
7-4 Z Johnson, 16-5 A Landry, 6 R Moore, 13-2 T Mullinax, 22 M Laird, J Walker, 28 C Kirk, 33 S O'Hair, 60 G Murray, 100 bar

Final-round advice
The final third-round threeball of Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore and Andrew Landry appeared to be contesting the Texas Open by themselves, but Trey Mullinax threw an enormous spanner in the works with an absolutely barnstorming finish.

The six-foot four-inch giant produced golf from the gods before looking ridiculously calm in post-round interviews. Mullinax failed to sparkle in his US Tour rookie campaign last season, but a bright start to 2018 suggests he has settled on the circuit.

Mullinax finished eighth in the Valspar Championship in the middle of last month, a fine effort on a tough track, and it is interesting to note that his best finish of last year was ninth place in the US Open. Difficult layouts may be the preference of Mullinax and TPC San Antonio is one of the most challenging on the schedule.

Following up a super-low round with something similar is notoriously exacting at the highest level, but such was the majesty and poise of Mullinax on Saturday, it would be a surprise should he fail card plenty of birdies in round four.

Outright punters should probably be concentrating on the final threeball. Fourth-placed Ryan Moore does not appear to be operating in top gear, and there is a two-shot gap between him and the quartet in fifth. Someone may spring from the pack, but Mullinax, Zach Johnson and Andrew Landry are playing so well that the pursuers have little margin for error.

Johnson, Landry and Mullinax are all fairly priced – the two maidens both appear good enough to become US Tour champions – but the safest bet is Johnson. The experience and bottle of the 42-year-old could easily prove decisive in a tight finish.

It favours Johnson that the field is out in threeballs for the denouement. The wily old fox can stare down the two nervous maidens in his company, going about his business unflustered. It is possible that Landry may get sucked in to the trap of giving his drives some extra punch, trying to get closer to Mullinax, who is by far the longest driver in the group. Johnson will focus entirely on his own game, retaining full control and not allowing himself to be unsettled by the power of Mullinax.

Spectators may have got a little taste of things to come on the final green of round three. Landry and Johnson both had short birdie putts – Landry dribbled his left of the cup, while Johnson hit the middle of the hole at pace. The calmness and assurance of the former Masters and Open champ can win the day, with Mullinax and Landry jostling for runner-up honours.

Final-round threeball punters are pointed towards Beau Hossler, who almost aced the 16th hole amid a flying finish to round three. Hossler, who went to university in Texas, was three under par for his final six holes and this rising star seems set to go low on Sunday. JT Poston and Vaughn Taylor may get left behind in the 4.45pm (UK and Ireland) match.

Outright recommendation
Z Johnson
2pts 7-4 general

Threeballs recommendation
B Hossler
2pts 11-8 Hills

The calmness and assurance of the former Masters and Open champ can win the day
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