Late slips from leaders gives chasing pack hope: Final round preview of the Valspar Championship

Halfway pace-setters Keegan Bradley and Sam Burns remain in the lead after 54 holes at the Innisbrook Resort but the peloton is closing, lead by Max Homa.

It's far from unusual for one player to leap clear of the field, but for two to have found themselves four blows clear after 36 holes was something a little more unusual.

The Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook vaguely resembled a stage of the Tour de France, with two cyclists having burst clear and everyone - the two themselves, the other cyclists, those watching - surprised that no-one had attempted to close the gap.

Keegan Bradley and Sam Burns were the two men in question and they started the third round in the same mood, adding birdies to their overnight total, appearing to have consigned the others to a scrap for third.

But late on Moving Day the story began to change.

Max Homa decided enough was enough. The Californian put in a sustained early burst, backed it up, and now enters Sunday with the leading pair in view on the road ahead.

When both the front men dropped a shot at the 18th hole, they not only gave Homa hope, but also the four men who share fourth.

Bradley and Burns both signed for 69s in round three to total 14-under 199 for the week, Homa's 66 leaves him one behind on 13-under, with Ted Potter Jr. (63), Abraham Ancer (66), Joaquin Niemann (67) and Cameron Tringale (67) another three swings back and Charley Hoffman (70) alone in eighth on 9-under.

Let's take a closer look at the leading contenders, and then the stats and trends that matter at Innisbrook.

Keegan Bradley

The 34-year-old is seeking his first win since the 2018 BMW Championship and just a second title since 2011.

A concern will be his record with the lead at this stage: he's 0-for-2 at converting a third round lead and 0-for-9 from starting in the top two.

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His record at Innisbrook is an odd one: he's gone sub-70 fives times in six attempts in round one, but ahead of this week had done it just once in nine tries thereafter.

His weekend average coming into the tournament was 73.00. Obviously, he's played better than that so far, but he won't want to revert to type.

He leads the field for SG Approach, SG Tee to Green and Greens in Regulation, but slipped to 38th for SG Putting when losing over two strokes on Saturday.

Sam Burns

A third 54-hole lead of the season, but the first two did not go well: he finished seventh and tied third although in the latter, at the Genesis Invitational, he posted a decent 69. He was also two shots back at this stage in the Farmers Insurance Open, but carded 75 for T18th.

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He did, however, lead the Korn Ferry Tour's Savannah Championship by one in 2018 and maintained that advantage.

He went 32 holes without a bogey before dropping shots at the 16th and 18th on Saturday: a pressure release or a sign of nerves? Time will tell.

Seeking a first PGA Tour win he's sixth for SG Tee to Green, but putting better than Bradley: he's third for SG Putting and T7th for Putting Average. He did go backwards in both categories on Saturday however.

Max Homa

Who was it who chased down Burns at the Genesis Invitational? Homa.

It's also the Wells Fargo Championship next week and Homa was the last winner of that title - another little boost to the conscious or sub-conscious mind?

He started this year by wasting a share of the 54-hole lead, at The American Express, but said that the experience helped him chase down the title at Riviera and if that lesson remains vivid he's surely dangerous.

Strikingly, he has blown his past experience of Innisbrook out of the water: before this week he'd missed three cuts and never equalled par never mind broken it.

He ranks top five for all SG categories bar Around the Green and leads the field for Putting Average.

The chasers

Potter Jr was brilliant on Saturday, but he'll do well to maintain that form: he's landed only three top 60 finishes in his last 28 starts and two of those (both top 10 admittedly) were in the Puerto Rico Open.

The neat Ancer and Tringale are chasing first wins at this level, Niemann a second.

Innisbrook stats and trends

The good news for the field is that final round comebacks have not been unknown on the Copperhead course.

In 2018 Paul Casey was T11th and five shots back after 54 holes, while in 2016 Charl Schwartzel was T8th and again five blows adrift.

A little further back in time, Luke Donald won from T7th and three back in 2012 and Sean O'Hair in 2008 from T5th, also three off the pace.

Nonetheless, 10 of the 19 winners here were first or sharing first at this stage.

Key stats at Innisbrook are Putting Average (the last five winners ranked top seven), SG Tee to Green (the last five winners ranked top six) and Par 5 Performance (five of the last six winners ranked top three).

The top three on the leaderboard are all on track to repeat those numbers. It will need a special round from the others, and poor efforts from that leading trio, for a surprise.

Bradley is 2/1, Burns 5/2 and Homa 5/2 with Paddy Power.

If anyone has it in them to go really low and apply pressure might it be Niemann. He shot a final round 64 to confirm his first win on the PGA Tour in 2019 and he repeated that dose to force a playoff from five shots back in the year-opening Tournament of Champions. He's best price 25/1 with BetFred.

READ MORE: Is Bryson DeChambeau a good bet to defend his US Open title in June?

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