Matthieu Pavon gets the vote from Jason Daniels ahead of a fascinating final round at the Hero Open, where Sam Horsfield is the man in front.
For the first two days of the Hero Open, the Forest of Arden course looked a tale of two halves.
With no split tees and everyone starting on the first hole, players were eased in with five of the first seven holes playing well under-par. Anything around par or even one-under was enough to be left behind early on, but it was around the turn and coming home when it got interesting.
While there was respite on the final two par-fives, nine of the last 12 holes played over their level score with a trio almost half a shot harder. It was the way they played these tougher holes which helped Sam Horsfield and Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez separate themselves a little at halfway, and it's the way Horsfield played them on Saturday which brought the field right back into it as his six-shot lead all but disappeared.
Horsfield, so long touted by Ian Poulter as one of the brightest prospects around, looked quite superb both on Friday and in his opening nine holes on Saturday as he burst clear. 'Find the fairway, flip it on, putt it' seemed the mantra as he made a 15-foot birdie putt on the first before a dart at two led to another shot under the card.
Given he shot 61 at this time last week, it was surprising to see him badly lose focus on the 10th and 12th, where an errant tee shot and an abysmal short bogey putt were the cause of two dropped shots. Tee shots started going awry soon after and after a shocking second into the water on the final par-five, the youngster will be relatively happy he is still in front.
This capitulation - he came home in 40 having looked more likely to come home in 30 when he made the turn - will play on him tonight as he will know that he should be sleeping on a much bigger lead, and he's still pretty new to this. The 23-year-old hasn't had much experience of being in front on a Sunday and though he held his position well in Tshwane Open in 2018, this is more significant.
It will be interesting to see how he's affected. On the one hand he has that bad round out of the way, but It won't help him that he now plays with the brilliant and fearless Rasmus Hojgaard and a solid start is imperative if he's to convert the lead.
Hojgaard featured in last week's 54-hole preview where we avoided him as he just didn't sound too confident in his Saturday interview, but that final-round 70 was good enough to finish second and enhance an already strong reputation. He led the greens-in-regulation stats and has carried that form on to Birmingham where he is top three again for finding the short stuff.
He is playing the tough holes well, parring the hardest - the ninth - on all three days while leaving himself good chances on the scoring holes. It is hard to see him going backwards and he was much more confident when speaking post-round, saying he has confidence off the tee, and with his numbers he is probably the man to beat.
At 4/1, Hojgaard would get the outright vote but this does look wide open thanks to Horsfield's collapse, which has let in the likes of Thomas Detry, who ought to have been out of it the way he played on Saturday. With a tendency to go backwards from the third to fourth round I still remain to be convinced but he wasn't in the equation and now he most certainly is, with things set up nicely for a final-round charge.
More interesting are another couple of those pre-event picks, Andy Sullivan and ROBERT ROCK, who have both carried their form over from Close House. There is little point in rehashing the points made earlier in the week and they don't necessarily have the improvement factor of a Hojgaard or Detry. What they do have is the experience and knowledge of playing many a tough back-nine and in England, with the hatless wonder rising from seventh to fourth last week and Sullivan to the same position from outside the top-10.
Both are suited far more to this test than the longer courses on the regular jaunt around Europe and the Middle East, and while the younger man has probably too much to do to get into the top echelons here, Rocky looks worth a small bet to cement another place on the front page. He's 7/5 for a top-10 finish which looks solid, with a still realistic chance that he can land the place money and perhaps even threaten the leaders at some stage.
Antione Rozner is finally demonstrating the form that many believed he would show at the start of the resumption of the tour but compatriot and fellow 27-year-old MATTHIEU PAVON makes more appeal for a wager on finals day, and is a strong fancy to outscore Richard Bland in their two-ball.
A former Alps Tour winner, he has taken another step forward this season and will rue the cessation of play after top-12 finishes in higher quality events at Dubai and Saudi Arabia, and 21st in Qatar.
Returning with a 26th place at Close House his numbers for final rounds are very eye-catching - 69 Dubai, 68 Saudi, 69 Qatar and 68 last week. Aggressive pin-seekers can obviously come unstuck but he also recorded a lowest-of-the-Sunday at the difficult Nordea Masters in 2017 and has a top-25 at the U.S Open - clearly he isn't the type to shirk an issue.
Those recent Sunday rounds suggest he can match or beat his best-of-the-week 67 and it was just a question of how to play him. The 33/1 to win his first European Tour title looks tempting but is only two places and shorter prices for a podium finish rely on no ties.
The suggestion therefore is to play a top-five finish and a very confident two-ball play against old stager Richard Bland, whose last two Sundays have yielded rounds of 75 and 76 after promising efforts the day before. Pavon's seven rounds from last ten in the 60s also comprehensively beats the Englishman's three from the same and there's just no way he should be 19/20, which he is at the time of writing with Sky Bet. Paddy Power go 10/11 - I made him closer to 4/7.
Posted at 1815 BST on 01/08/20
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