Justin Thomas shot a 67 on Saturday and will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.
The 25-year old American finished his third day at Firestone with three bogeys, nine pars, and six birdies, including five gains during a flawless nine-hole stretch (Nos. 6-14) that keyed his separation from the pack and secured the pole position at 14-under par.
“I played well again today. I didn’t get off to the start that I have been the last couple days, but made a good birdie on 2 after a not very good drive, but I got away with one,” said Thomas.
“Made a couple bogeys there on the par 3s with a pretty easy bunker shot, so that was a little upsetting,
“But overall I really, really played well in the middle of the round and made a lot of key birdies.”
Seeking his third win of the season, Thomas will be joined in Sunday’s final pairing by Rory McIlroy, who also posted a 67 to reach 11-under par.
McIlroy’s 67 came without a blemish, and included 15 pars mixed with three birdies. The 29 year old Northern Irishman was T2 alongside Ian Poulter, who carded even-par 70.
“It was best I’ve hit it off the tee, and probably the best I’ve hit it overall. I hit some better wedge shots out there, which was good to see. Wish I could have converted a couple more of the chances, but it sort of all evened out,” said McIlroy.
“I holed a couple really nice putts for par in the middle of the back nine, so happy with that. The course is firming up a little bit.
“The greens are still receptive, but it’s definitely playing a little bit tougher today than it has done the previous two days. Happy with everything.”
Jason Day was one back at 10-under par following a 69. The 30-year old Aussie will join Poulter in the penultimate pairing.
Day’s countryman, Marc Leishman, posted a 67 to move up to T5 at 9-under par, alongside Kyle Stanley, who finished even-par 70.
Rickie Fowler bounced back from a second-day 74 to post a low-round 65 and jump 20 spots up the scoreboard to T7 at 8-under par, alongside Jon Rahm, who carded a 68.
“Today, hit the ball a little closer, made putts. And this golf course, especially when it starts to firm up a little more and more, it’s a really fine line,” said Fowler, comparing his rounds.
“Yes, the fairways may be 30-plus yards wide, but if you don’t land them in the middle, they tend to want to run out and get into the rough.
“So yesterday was just one of those ones where couldn’t get momentum going the right way, didn’t make anything, so it was nice to come back and clean things up and it will be fun tomorrow.”
Overnight co-leader Tommy Fleetwood struggled to a 74, and dropped to T9 alongside Louis Oosthuizen (69) at 7-under par.
Tiger Woods also had a tough Saturday, finishing with four bogeys offset by just one birdie en route to a 3-over 73. The eight-time Firestone winner dropped 18 positions to T28 at 3-under par.
2018 WGC BRIDGESTONE INVITATIONAL
TOP 10 LEADERS
POS-PLAYER-TO PAR (TODAY)
1. Justin Thomas -14 (-3)
2. Rory McIlroy -11 (-3)
2. Ian Poulter -11 (E)
4. Jason Day -10 (-1)
5. Marc Leishman -9 (-3)
5. Kyle Stanley -9 (E)
7. Jon Rahm -8 (-2)
7. Rickie Fowler -8 (-5)
9. Tommy Fleetwood -7 (+4)
9. Louis Oosthuizen -7 (-1)
1:20 pm – Oosthuizen, Fleetwood
1:30 pm – Fowler, Rahm
1:40 pm – Leishman, Stanley
1:50 pm – Poulter, Day
2:00 pm – Thomas, McIlroy
TV: 12-1:45 pm (GOLF) | 2-6:00 pm (CBS)
1. Rory McIlroy – 345.9 (T2)
2. Thorbjorn Olesen – 335.2 (T22)
3. Brooks Koepka – 335.1 (T11)
17. Justin Thomas – 326.7 (1)
1. Kyle Stanley – 76.2% (T5)
2. Henrik Stenson – 69.1% (T34)
3. Gary Woodland – 66.7% (T28)
3. Ryuko Tokimatsu – 66.7% (T43)
3. Satoshi Kodaira – 66.7% (T61)
13. Justin Thomas – 59.5% (1)
1. Jason Day – 77.8% (4)
2. Justin Thomas – 75.9% (1)
2. Rickie Fowler – 75.9% (T7)
2. Jon Rahm – 75.9% (T7)
2. Brooks Koepka – 75.9% (T11)
Statistics provided by STATS LLC
EXIT QUESTION FOR THOMAS
You’re playing with Rory tomorrow. He talked about you guys practicing together a lot last week. Can you run us through that and how it will be tomorrow sort of going head to head with him?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It will be fun. Rory and I have played together a lot. We’ve played together a lot in tournaments, but never in this kind of situation, so it will be different.
We’ll both be doing our own thing. I’m sure we’ll chat here and there between shots, but he’s out there doing his thing and I’m out here doing mine.
But last week, yeah, we were both home in Jupiter and we just happened to be kind of practicing around the same time and just kind of catching up and trying to practice before we could beat the thunderstorms. That was about it.
Transcript provided by Tee Scripts