World No. 5 Justin Thomas seizes PGA Tour lead at Muirfield

Thomas, whose 12 tour titles include a major triumph at the 2017 PGA Championship, had six birdies without a bogey on the way to a 54-hole total of 16-under 200.

By Author  |  Published: 12th Jul 2020  11:05 am
Justin Thomas
Justin Thomas of the United States lines up a putt on the second green during the third round of the Workday Charity Open. Photo: AFP

Washington: Justin Thomas closed in on his third win of the coronavirus disrupted US PGA Tour season Saturday, firing a six-under par 66 to take a two-shot lead over Viktor Hovland at Muirfield Village in Ohio.

Thomas, whose 12 tour titles include a major triumph at the 2017 PGA Championship, had six birdies without a bogey on the way to a 54-hole total of 16-under 200.

Norway’s Hovland had eight birdies in his 66 as he joined Thomas in overhauling overnight leader Collin Morikawa, who started the day with a three-shot lead and fired an even par 72 to head into Sunday alone in third on 203.

It was a further two strokes back to Sam Burns (70) and Kevin Streelman (71) on 205.

Back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth let Morikawa preserve his lead even as Thomas strung together three straight birdies at five, six and seven — blasting out of a greenside bunker to two feet at the seventh to gain a stroke on the leader.

Morikawa’s bogeys at the ninth and 10th opened the door for Thomas, who took full advantage, rolling in an 18 foot birdie putt at the 11th to seize the lead and padding it with birdies at 14 and 15.

World number five Thomas maintained his cushion with a par save from a greenside bunker at 16.

“I got around very well today,” Thomas said. “Scrambling, chipping and putting, I’ve made those putts when I need to, I’ve hit some great chips and great bunker shots when I needed to.”

This week’s Workday Charity Open is the first of back-to-back events at the Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village, added in to boost the coronavirus-disrupted calendar.

The Nicklaus-hosted Memorial will follow next week, and Thomas said efforts to give the two events a different look made for some tricky holes.

“Some pin placements I’ve never seen before,” he said. “A lot of ins, like 11, you see in practice rounds, they’re kind of right in the middle of the green. They look easy, but they’re on huge slopes or they’re on a floor.”

After rain, wind and lightning led to two suspensions on Friday, the weather was sunny but windy for the third round.

Tee times have been moved up for Sunday, however, with more inclement weather in the forecast.

Thomas, who hasn’t had a bogey this week, said he wouldn’t be focused on keeping that streak alive in the final round.

“Overall bogeys are going to happen,” said Thomas, who won the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges back in October and the Tournament of Champions in January before the tour halted play in March in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m just going to go out there and keep executing my game plan. I’m not trying to not make a bogey. I’m stepping on the tee trying to hit the fairway, trying to make birdie. If you’re out of position, then you try to make a par.”

Hovland is seeking his second US tour title this season, having gained his maiden win at the Puerto Rico Open in February.

His six-under effort was powered by his length off the tee.