Lighter, post-Covid Bryson DeChambeau hunting the win: Final round preview of the WGC-St Jude

Harris English continues to lead at TPC Southwind, but DeChambeau and Cameron Smith are just two blows back of him with 18 holes to play.

The Scientist might want to research the law of unintended consequences.

In the third round of the World Golf Championship-St Jude Invitational Bryson DeChambeau thrashed a brilliant back nine of just 30 strokes to card a 7-under-par 63 and move into joint second alongside Cameron Smith on 16-under 194, just two blows back of the long-term leader Harris English.

Through 54 holes this week he has hit 69% of TPC Southwind's fairways which, if he maintains that on Sunday, would sit in his top three most accurate driving weeks since he emerged from lockdown with his new, pumped-up physique.

This week he has also returned from another Covid-related enforced lay-off, but this time he contracted the illness.

Yet again his appearance was altered, but this time he was 11 pounds lighter.

As a result, he said: "A little lower ball speed, but I'll get that back real quickly."

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He then added: "It's honestly kind of helped me this week hit it in the fairway, I don't know why."

Only to later explain: "You just can't hit big bomb drivers out here. There's a few holes you can. Very reserved this week and saving all the energy, still getting back to 100%."

The bleeding obvious might be passing DeChambeau by, but birdies haven't been.

He made three of them on the front nine, offset by the one dropped shot, and then ticked five more on the way home.

"It was beautiful to be able to score really well," he cooed. "I didn't feel like my ball-striking was perfect, but I got it around really well and I was very pleased with it.

"Didn't feel as comfortable as I would have liked with the swing, but the results were there so I was very pleased with the results. It was awesome being able to strike it that close to the hole all day. And honestly, if I can do that again tomorrow, I give myself a great chance to win.

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"If I can give myself chances on the front nine, five, six and seven are big holes. If I can get those in the fairway, I give myself wedge opportunities to hit it close and make birdie. That's key."

He may also need English and Smith to wilt. The pair had smoothed their way through 36 holes, but got off to stuttering starts on Saturday, yet both recovered.

Smith has been scrambling and putting in frankly ridiculous style all week, while English's swing and strategy have been resilient.

Which of the three will triumph?

Or will it be the man for shots back in solo fourth, Abraham Ancer?

Let's take a closer look at the leading contenders and the numbers.

Harris English - leader on 18-under

It's a slightly moot tournament record (because it compares play at Firestone CC with TPC Southwind), but English has tied Tiger Woods for the low 54 hole score and he's seeking to become the third wire-to-wire winner.

The 32-year-old ranks first for SG Putting this week, third for SG Approach and third Tee to Green. He's also hit more green in regulation than anyone.

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He's seeking a third win of 2021 and has been in fine form this summer, contending at Congaree, landing third at the US Open, winning the Travelers Championship and recovering from a first round 75 to make the cut at the Open (with a Friday 65).

He's 1-for-2 at converting a 54 hole lead and the time he didn't win he did take the contest to extra holes.

Bryson DeChambeau - tied second on 16-under

Despite not being 100% from the tee, he leads the field for SG Off the Tee and has taken advantage - he's also second for SG Approaches.

He's seeking a first top 10 finish since May, a first top five since THE PLAYERS Championship, and a first win since the week before that at Bay Hill.

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He's very good on the shoulder of a leader: in four of his last five final round starts from second he has claimed the win; he is 4-for-7 in total from that position.

Cameron Smith - tied second on 16-under

Found only four fairways on Saturday, but hung tough yet again with his magical short game (in round two he needed just 18 putts). He ranks second for SG Around the Green and Scrambling, second for SG Putting and first for Putts per GIR.

His last six final rounds have been rather wild, including two 66s, two 74s and a 77.

He's entered a final round in second three times and has a fine record. He won the 2017 Australian PGA Championship and 2020 Sony Open from this position, he also maintained that spot in last year's Masters.

Abraham Ancer - fourth on 14-under

Mr Neat and Tidy who ranked 28th for SG Off the Tee and top 12 for every other category. Ranking second for GIR and third for Scrambling backs up that notion of elegant simplicity.

He's hunting a 12th top 20 of 2021, but will really want a first win at PGA Tour level.

The numbers and conclusion

Scoring on the par-4s matters on this tight par-70. Of the last three winners, two ranked first on the par-4s and the other was second.

Currently, DeChambeau is 8-under, English and Smith are both 7-under, Ancer 6-under. The only outsider this flags up is Will Zalatoris (tied seventh on 11-under) who is also 8-under.

Strokes Gained Tee to Green tend to matter also. DeChambeau leads that category, English is third, Smith seventh and Ancer fourth (Zalatoris is 12th).

Course form has also tended to be key and that favours English. He won on the course in 2013, DeChambeau is looking for a first top 25 at the fifth time of asking, Smith was T12th in 2019 (his only top 50 in three tries), Ancer has two top 20s in three visits but no top 10.

If English continues to thrive on the front nine that maybe decisive: he's 11-under to the turn this week against 8-under for Ancer, 7-under for Smith and 4-under for DeChambeau.

Should he not stretch the gap, DeChambeau may sniff a chance. But English does appear to be holding a strong position.

PlanetSportBet price English 6/4, DeChambeau 5/2, Smith 7/2 and Ancer 14/1.

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