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Jon Rahm
AP
The Roundup

Record-breaker Rahm in hot pursuit

by Dave Tindall
Updated On: February 23, 2020, 4:42 am ET

Recap of the day

Jon Rahm stole the early headlines on Moving Day, making birdie at six of his first seven holes to charge up the board. A bogey at 8 halted his momentum and lesser mortals could have failed to get it back. Not Rahm. The Spaniard got back on the birdie train with gains at 10, 13 and 15 before draining his tee-shot at the par-3 17th, a one-bounce-and-vanish slam dunk hole-in-one to send the local Mexican fans wild.

A par at the last secured a 61: his low round as a pro, a new course record and a share of the lowest-ever round in a WGC event. A fantastic day's work.

And yet, although Saturday was mostly the Rahm show, the leaders were hardly standing aside. Instead, there was a fierce battle at the top.   

Bryson DeChambeau appeared to be holding the aces when starting birdie-eagle and extending his one-shot overnight lead to three. But he doubled the 6th after finding water and limped home in 38 after the putter turned cold, ending alongside Rahm and a less-than-spectacular Rory McIlroy at 11-under.

That trio will form the penultimate three-ball Sunday but the last group out has a cushion.

Course horse Justin Thomas authored a 65 in round three to move into the lead on 15-under 198 and that's just a single shot clear of compatriot Patrick Reed and South African Erik van Rooyen, who both signed for 67s.

Leaderboard: -15 Justin Thomas, -14 Patrick Reed, Erik van Rooyen, -11 Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau

Notables: -10 Paul Casey, -9 Hideki Matsuyama, Gary Woodland, -4 Tommy Fleetwood, -3 Adam Scott, Xander Schauffele, +1 Dustin Johnson, +4 Jordan Spieth, +6 Webb Simpson.

Low round of the day: Jon Rahm's record-breaking 61

 

Revised outright betting

Thomas 10/11, Reed 7/2, Van Rooyen 6/1, McIlroy 9/1, Rahm 12/1, DeChambeau 22/1, Casey 50/1.

 

Sunday weather forecast

It's a little milder in round four but temperatures are still fairly pleasant (high 70s). Winds are light so, in theory, low scores are out there again.

 

Leaders at 54 holes

Justin Thomas (65) – He's getting better each day: 67, 66, 65 and for the second time in the four editions of this event, Thomas is the 54-hole leader. Eight birdies against two bogeys today and he hit 14 greens. So far this week, Thomas ranks 4th in three main categories - SG: Off The Tee, SG: Tee to Green and SG: Putting.

Patrick Reed (67) – Has landed 20 birdies this week (1st), including six more today. Found just ten greens and is only 44th for SG: Off The Tee but Reed is the week's top putter so far, gaining 8.781 strokes on the field thru 54 holes.

Erik van Rooyen (67) – A fourth chip-in of the week (it's no surprise to see him 1st for SG: Around The Green) helped the South African surprise package maintain his bid. Started birdie-eagle and found 14 GIR for the second day running. Ranks 2nd SG: Tee To Green.

 

Fate of the favorites

So how did Jon Rahm shoot his 61? All the numbers were good, but the standout was gaining 5.817 strokes Tee To Green. Final-hole bogeys for Thomas and Reed were an added boost as he finished just four back. Rory McIlroy played the final six holes in 1-over for a 68, his round having that same lacklustre feel to yesterday's 69 when judged against the opening 65 that put him two clear after day one. After looking completely out of sorts on day one (76) and flat on day two (71), Dustin Johnson really had it going in round four, playing his first 14 holes in 7-under via an eagle and five birdies. But this isn't DJ's week and he closed bogey-par-double bogey for a 67, ending in T41.

 

Quotes

Jon Rahm (61) – “I was just trying to get obviously the lowest round possible. I wasn’t thinking of any records, I was just trying to hit that ball on the green at 17, give myself a birdie chance to finish with a good day. Got lucky. Hopefully I can start as hot as I did today and give myself a chance tomorrow.”

Justin Thomas (65) – “When they're those curlers you just have to kind of match the pace with the line and I feel like I've done that pretty well this week and that's why I've been able to make some putts."

Patrick Reed (67) – “It was a little sloppy today but the good thing I was able to get it around the golf course, put it in the right spots to either have a chance for a birdie or get it up and down. I'm in a great position going into tomorrow and that's all you can ask for."

 

Road to victory at Chapultepec

2019 Dustin Johnson – R1: 2nd, R2: 1st, R3: 1st

2018 Phil Mickelson – R1: 13th, R2: 14th, R3: 2nd

2017 Dustin Johnson – R1: 20th, R2: 5th, R3: 2nd

Notes: We have just three years of evidence but all three winners were either first or second with 18 to play. DJ had a four-shot lead last year but came from one back to win in 2017. Phil was two behind before coming through to win in 2018 with a 66, the same Sunday total Johnson fired 12 months ago.

 

Fate of the third-round leaders at Chapultepec – where did they finish?

2019 Dustin Johnson 1st

2018 Shubhankar Sharma 9th

2017 Justin Thomas 5th

Notes: DJ had a big lead which he stretched to five but Sharma slumped to a 74 to slip to ninth and, while that was understandable given that he had never been in such a position against this sort of field, JT's closing 1-over 72 which dropped him to fifth shows that nothing is a given on this course.

 

Focus on – Jon Rahm

It's a popular notion that it's hard to follow a low round with another. Often commentators will ramble prosaically about there being a "loss of magic" rather than the mundane reality of it being a reversion to the mean. But Rahm has history when it comes to shooting the lights out in both weekend rounds. In the 2019 Irish Open, he fired a Saturday 64 and followed it with an even more stunning Sunday 62 to go from seven behind at the midpoint to win by five. And in his home Open de Espana that same year, he thrashed a third-round 63 and added a closing 66. When the Spanish bull gets up a head of steam, his charge can continue. And, let's not forget, there's an extra incentive. If Rahm gets it done and Rory finishes outside the top three, he'll knock McIlroy off top spot and leap to World No. 1 for the first time.

 

Focus on – the 61 shooters

While 62 (Branden Grace) is the lowest score in a major, we've now seen five 61s in WGC events. Rahm's was the first on a par 71 (Firestone is par 70):

2000 Tiger Woods (Firestone)
2013 Tiger Woods (Firestone)
2014 Sergio Garcia (Firestone)
2017 Hideki Matsuyama (Firestone)
2020 Jon Rahm (Chapultepec) 

Notes: Tiger (both times) and Matsuyama went on to win but Garcia was runner-up to McIlroy in 2014.

 

Focus on – Justin Thomas with a 54-hole lead

While noting that JT didn't go a good job with the 54-hole lead here in 2017, that is very atypical when looking at his career. Thomas is an excellent front-runner and since Mexico 2017 he's been the third-round leader on six occasions and converted five of them and finished runner-up in the other. Overall, he's an impressive 8-for-11 from this position on the PGA TOUR.

Dave Tindall
Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.