Mon, 14 Jun 2021

Flawless Thomas holds 54-hole lead at Workday Charity Open

Field Level Media
12 Jul 2020, 10:40 GMT+10

Justin Thomas shot a second straight 6-under 66 on Saturday and holds a two-stroke lead over Norway's Viktor Hovland after three rounds of the Workday Charity Open in Dublin, Ohio.

Saturday's action included the end of Round 2, which was suspended Friday because of darkness. The shortened time, combined with the number of players making the cut, meant that Rounds 3 and 4 would be played in threesomes rather than pairings.

Thomas, the No. 5-ranked player in the world, played a bogey-free round and carded six birdies -- of all them over an 11-hole span -- and a dozen pars at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Through three rounds, the 27-year-old American has yet to post a bogey and sits at 16-under 200.

Of the 12 previous occasions Thomas held or shared the 54-hole lead, he went on to win the tournament eight times.

And after Saturday's round, Thomas said some of his par saves were his best shots of the day -- particularly the one that seemed to ignite his round.

"The two-putt on 4 was really, really good. That was a very, very difficult two-putt," Thomas told reporters. "I felt like it was on a pretty severe slope to where with the wind coming -- wind going that way, I felt like if I got it past the hole even with the greens being quite a bit slower, I could just go right off the front of the green, hence the reason I left it about eight or 10 feet short ... I really, really rolled (the second) putt well, so that was a big save there.

"I mean, other than that, I felt like the rest of the day -- I mean, the up-and-down on 16, it was nice, but it wasn't very difficult. I mean, I had a lot of green to work with, I was back into the wind. But that two-putt on 4 was nice."

Following the save at 4, Thomas posted three straight birdies, including a 4 on the par-5 fifth.

Hovland's round was a contrast in consistency. He posted as many pars (eight) as birdies, added a pair of bogeys, and never tallied more than two consecutive pars. He made the turn at 4 under thanks to four birdies on the front nine, then bogeyed 10, birdied 11, posted back-to-back pars, and closed with birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie-par. In matching Thomas with a 66, Hovland sits at 14 under through three rounds.

It's quite a turnaround for a player who sat at 3 over through 10 holes on Thursday.

"Yeah, it's really cool to be in this position after that bad start because a couple weeks -- the past couple weeks I've had good first rounds and have kind of been up by the lead early on, but I've been kind of falling off," Hovland said after his round Saturday. "I'm really proud of kind of how I was able to turn it around and just kind of play better and better every single day."

Collin Morikawa, who was in front after 18 and 36 holes this week, looked like he would only strengthen his grip on the lead with two birdies and six pars through his first eight holes Saturday. But the wheels came off at No. 9, as his bogey 5 started a run of three bogeys in four holes. He teed off on 18 at 1 over for the day before a birdie left him at even-par 72 for the day and 13 under for the tournament, alone in third place.

"It was really up and down," Morikawa said of his round. "I put myself in spots you couldn't put yourself in. (On No.) 12, I was over the bunker left like 10 yards, so just iron distances weren't working. Couldn't really figure out wind directions, how much to adjust. But whole new day tomorrow and kind of glad I fought it out through even par and got myself three back, so that can change really quickly tomorrow."

Sam Burns (70) and Kevin Streelman (71) are tied for fourth at 11 under. England's Ian Poulter and Slovakia's Rory Sabbatini each shot 69 on Saturday and are tied for sixth at 10 under.

Rickie Fowler and 2019 U.S. Open champ Gary Woodland were among the early climbers Saturday, each shooting 66 to get to 9 under through 54 holes. They are among a group of five players tied for eighth place.

Another of the players at 9 under is South Africa's MJ Daffue. Sitting at 1 over with three holes to play in Round 2, the Monday qualifier birdied each of his final three holes of the round Saturday morning -- to make it in on the cutline. He then posted the lowest score of the day (65) to climb 35 spots.

"Yeah, I knew. I knew," Daffue said when asked if he knew he needed a birdie on his 36th hole to make the cut.

"I think I got everything out of my round I could," he then said of being the only golfer besides Thomas to go bogey-free in the third round. "I had a chip-in and made some par putts, but I've been seeing the lines very good. I've been working on the putting, and I think I'm like second in strokes gained putting or something. Obviously I'm rolling it really well. So I feel like if I can just give myself a good look at it. Yeah, going around here bogey-free, that's -- I guess it's quite impressive."

Among other golfers, Phil Mickelson shot a 2-over 74 on Saturday to fall to even par through three rounds and South Korean Sungjae Im posted a 1-under 71 to stand at 3 under. World No. 2 Jon Rahm of Spain shot a 75 and sits at 1-over 217.

--Field Level Media

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