AT&T Byron Nelson Classic final-round preview: Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas ready to pounce

The two American Ryder Cup stars both shot 64s in Saturday’s third round at TPC Craig Ranch and are in position to reel in one-shot leader Sebastian Munoz.

Sebastian Munoz continues to have a blast at the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic and the man who opened with a stunning 12-under 60 still leads the way after 54 holes.

There are times when it appears he can do no wrong at TPC Craig Ranch this week and that feeling was cemented when the Colombian holed his bunker shot for eagle at the par-4 6th.

Further birdies at 10, 12 and 14 took him to 22-under.

The problem for Munoz is that because scoring is ridiculously low this week, everyone else is making birdies too.

So when he closed par-bogey-par-par, his 21-under final score was only good enough for a one-shot lead over Jordan Spieth, who had earlier posted a 64.

Riviera winner Joaquin Niemann fired a second straight 65 to lie two off the pace while Justin Thomas jumped 11 spots to sit three back after a 64

Thomas shares fourth spot with James Hahn, who carded the low round of the day, a blistering 61.

Add in defending champion K.H. Lee on 17-under (four back) and World No.1 Scottie Scheffler (five behind) and Munoz has plenty of potential final-round threats.

Let's look at the front of the leaderboard to see who has the best credentials to land the trophy.

Sebastian Munoz - 21-under (60-69-66)

Munoz has held three previous 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour.

He converted the second of them (2019 Sanderson Farms Championship) after a playoff and finished third (2017 Greenbrier Classic) and fourth (2021 John Deere Classic) in the other two.

In all three of those closers he failed to break 70. That will surely have to change here.

Stats: Munoz ranks 2nd for Greens In Regulation and 6th for Strokes Gained: Approach so far. He's also 4th for SG: Putting but most of his 5.755 strokes over the field were achieved in that opening 60 (4.270).

Quotes: "Overall my mental game was really good. I got off to a good start and kind of kept pushing."

Munoz lives in Texas and went to college there but knows playing partner Jordan Spieth will get all the attention in round four. "I mean besides winning in Bogota, Colombia, I never been the favourite of any other place. So it's a familiar spot, I mean Jordan is, of course, the golden boy here, so everyone's favourite. I'm good friends with him, so it's going to be a lot of fun tomorrow."

Jordan Spieth - 20-under (67-65-64)

Spieth won the Valero Texas Open the week before the 2021 Masters so he knows all about shining the week before a Major.

He also captured the RBC Heritage on his latest start so is in great form ahead of next week's PGA Championship at Southern Hills.

It looks set up for him to win but here's a little negative stat: Spieth has failed to convert from second place after 54 holes fives times out of five on the PGA Tour since March 2015.

What's more, four of those were in Texas where he had to settle for 2nd, 18th, 8th and 10th despite being roared on by the local galleries. Did he put too much pressure on himself?

Stats: Spieth ranks 2nd in Strokes Gained: Tee To Green. Breaking that down, he's 3rd Off The Tee, 11th in Approach and 28th Around The Green. He's 16 for SG: Putting and has made 17 birdies over the last two days.

Quotes: "I ended up having I think four eagle putts and a couple kind of eagle chips today, so it was nice to capitalise on all six of those holes and then play the rest of the golf course a couple under.

"I feel some momentum for sure, but I do feel like I still got some parts of my game that actually need to sharpen a little bit."

Joaquin Niemann - 19-under (67-65-65)

Niemann has been making his way up the leaderboard all week as he bids to secure his second win of the season.

He's converted 48 of 50 putts from inside 10 feet so far.

The Chilean, who scored a wire-to-wire win at the Genesis Invitational earlier this year, has only once been in third position after 54 holes on the PGA Tour.

That was at the 2020 BMW Championship where he fired a 67 to finish where he started and take third place.

Stats: Niemann ranks 5th for Strokes Gained: Putting and 8th SG: Off The Tee but only 47th for SG: Approach. He's also only 84th for Greens In Regulation although had his best day in round three, hitting 14 out of 18 in the right number.

Quotes: "It was a great round. Obviously it was super hot today.

"Would like to have ended up with a birdie on 18 but it was overall super nice round and I'm in a pretty good position for tomorrow."

Justin Thomas - 18-under (68-66-64)

Thomas has improved his score by two shots each day. So a 62 on Sunday?

He won his only Major - the 2017 PGA Championship - after starting the final round in fourth place while he's since finished 2nd, 4th and 6th from this position.

As for starting Sundays exactly three shots back, his eventual finishes from the four occasions he's been in that position are 5th, 1st, 3rd, 3rd. The win came at the 2021 Players Championship where a 68 saw him win by one.

Stats: Thomas' numbers are a little unusual. He's 46th Off The Tee, 26th for Approach, 29th in Putting but 1st Around The Green. JT is only 133rd for Driving Accuracy.

Quotes: "I drove the ball well today, the fairways I missed were very, very close. It was very stress-free.

"I had a couple putts on the back nine I felt like I could have made, but I just am not doing anything special. I'm far from my best stuff. Sometimes it's fun when you're able to be in contention in a tournament without your best stuff and that's where we're at right now."

James Hahn - 18-under (69-68-61)

Hahn likes going low in this event and his sparkling Saturday 61 was his eighth round of 65 or lower at the Byron Nelson.

He's previously finished tied fifth (2014) and tied third (2017) at this tournament.

Looking at his two wins on the PGA Tour - the 2015 Northern Trust Open and the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship - he came from four and two shots back respectively.

Stats: Hahn's long game has been brilliant so far. He's 1st for SG: Tee To Green, 1st for Approach and 2nd Off The Tee. While only 81st for putting, it really heated up in R2 where he gained 2.362 strokes on the field after registering -3.148 and -2.443 on days one and two.

Quotes: "Everything went right. I feel like it just played easy out there for me, but everyone's shooting, 9-, 10-under, someone is every day, so I just felt like why not me.

"It's nice when the head pro comes down, his name is Ronnie, and gives me a little putting lesson after the end of the round yesterday. That definitely helped out a lot. Felt a little more confident over the ball."

Scottie Scheffler - 16-under (67-68-65)

Scheffler may still come to rue that triple-bogey 7 at 13 in round two but a 65 in round three kept him in the hunt.

Of those three recent wins, he was three ahead after 54 holes at The Masters but Scheffler came from two behind on the final day at both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

He did once win a Korn Ferry event from six behind in 2019, bursting through the field with a closing 63.

Stats: Scheffler ranks T1st for birdies so far (22). He's 3rd in Approach and 11th Tee To Green but just 35th for SG: Putting.

Quotes: "A few missed opportunities, but 7-under not really putting really good is a pretty good score.

"I fought my way kind of back into the tournament but I need a hot putter tomorrow if I want to make some noise."

Conclusion

It's very easy to think Spieth and Thomas will show their class and be the ones to beat in round four.

But Spieth hasn't thrived from this position before when in front of his own Texas fans and JT doesn't sound thrilled with his game.

The interesting one at a big price (25/1 in some places) could be Hahn.

His long-game numbers are superb, the putting tip he received ahead of round three has had an immediate impact while his two PGA Tour wins came when chasing.

He's also got some strong history in this tournament.

Leader Munoz may be hard to shift although perhaps the putter is going cold at the wrong time.

READ MORE: Jordan Spieth sets sights on career grand slam at US PGA Championship

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