Can Jon Rahm overhaul a six shot 54 hole deficit in the Open de Espana?

The World No. 1 trails pace-setter Rafa Cabrera Bello heading into the final round at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.

A week that started off so well for Jon Rahm ground to something very near a halt on Saturday at the Open de Espana.

The World No. 1 arrived in Madrid hoping to join his hero Seve Ballesteros as a three-time winner of the tournament and on Thursday morning it looked like he was going to leave the field in his wake right from the get-go.

He thrashed four birdies and an eagle in his first eight holes and eventually carded an 8-under 63.

When he added a Friday 67 he looked set for a weekend charge.

The sell-out crowds arrived at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid full expecting to see their compatriot put his foot to the pedal.

Memories were fresh of the 63 he shot at the course two years ago which turned a two shot deficit into a five shot lead he never surrendered.

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And yet it never quite happened this Saturday.

Watch by Real Madrid's Gareth Bale, he stumbled early, making a bogey at the third and a double bogey at the fifth.

Two birdies before the turn offered hope, yet he immediately gave the shots back at the 10th and 11th.

He retrieved the first of those at the par-5 14th (a hole he has played in 5-under through the first three rounds) and he attacked the par-4 last with a thunderous drive near the green.

When he got up-and-down for birdie he gave himself a small chance of victory.

His 1-over 72 left him on 11-under, in a seven-way tie for ninth, six blows behind the leader Rafa Cabrera Bello, but only four adrift of Adri Arnaus and Julien Guerrier in second.

Cabrera Bello is a three-time winner on the European Tour, but he has a reputation for struggling to close and has won just the once in nine years.

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Arnaus and Guerrier are looking to triumph for the first time at this level, as is Jack Senior who is alone in fourth.

The other four men ahead of Rahm have issues of their own: Alex Levy and Shubhankar Sharma are recovering from spells of long term poor form, Wil Besseling is unproven in contention, and Richard Bland finally won this year but the fact it was a wonderful surprise when he did says much.

The question, therefore, is whether Rahm's Saturday woes have made him, at 12/1, a worthwhile bet.

Let's take a closer look.

Rahm chasing

He does have experience of hunting down a lead from some way off, but never quite six shots.

In six of his 13 career wins he was leading at this stage, in another three he was top four.

At last year's BMW Championship and this year's US Open he was three shots back and in a tie for sixth before forcing the win.

His very first win as a professional came at the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open when he was again three back, but that time in T13th - he shot a 65 to win by three.

Perhaps the most intriguing past example of a win was his victory in the 2019 Irish Open.

Like this week it was on the European Tour, he was also tied ninth, however he was five, rather than six, shots behind the lead.

Whereupon he blasted the field with a 62 to win by a couple of blows.

It was a win he would later talk of with some pride, recognising that he didn't lose his temper when he might well have done in the past.

He might have made a mess of this year's third round and yet those memories of the 63 two years ago can still offer hope - it proves he can go low on this track.

If he gets off to a good start his shadow will also loom large over his fellow contenders.

The next question is how they cope

The leader and leading contenders

Not only is it four years since Cabrera Bello last won, but he also had that victory in the Scottish Open somewhat handed to him on a plate by Callum Shinkwin.

Before that, he was a fine winner of the Dubai Desert Classic in 2012 and he claimed the Austrian Open in 2009 with a final lap of 60.

However, he is 0-for-7 at converting 54 leads on the European and PGA Tours; this is a big day for him and a great test too.

Arnaus has only twice been tied second or better at this stage on the European Tour. Both times he finished second - so he didn't win but he hung around.

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This is the seventh time Guerrier has been tied third or better after three rounds on the European Tour. He's only once retained that position and has most often plummeted thanks to rounds of 78, 71, 72, 71, 78 and 72.

Jack Senior has only once before been top four with 18 holes to play at this level, at the Qatar Masters in March. A 79 saw him finish T35th.

They all have reasons to be vulnerable and if they do not fall victim to a charging Rahm then who might it be?

Sharma makes a good case.

His first win on the European Tour was on an old-style course at altitude in Johannesburg - much like this week then.

And his second win, in Malaysia, saw him fly home in the final round with a 62 that overhauled a four shot deficit from T19th.

He also threatened to win the WGC Mexico Championship at altitude and before missing the cut last week he made six top 30s in seven starts including an excellent tied ninth at Wentworth.

He's available at 40/1 with PlanetSportBet.

READ MORE: Nine players seeking a first win on the PGA Tour: Can they hit the big time in Las Vegas?

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