LUCKY 13TH FOR THOMAS

Amer­i­can scores hole-in-one to lead WGC

New Straits Times - - Sport -

AMER­I­CAN Justin Thomas aced the 232yard 13th hole on his way to fir­ing a five-un­der par 66 Satur­day, grab­bing a one-stroke lead at the World Golf Cham­pi­onships Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship.

Thomas, seek­ing his fifth PGA ti­tle and third tri­umph of the year, stood on 12-un­der 201 af­ter 54 holes with reign­ing US Open cham­pion and world num­ber one Dustin John­son one stroke off the pace af­ter match­ing Thomas with his sec­ond con­sec­u­tive 66.

Thomas made five birdies and two bo­geys but his shot of the day was the hole-in-one at 13 where his tee shot bounced high on the front of the green and dropped into the bot­tom of the cup.

“That looked nice,” Thomas said.

“It was re­ally cool. I hadn’t played too many shots ex­actly how I wanted to­day.

“That was the first one and I liked that bet­ter for sure.”

Five-time ma­jor cham­pion Phil Mick­el­son and four-time ma­jor win­ner

Rory McIl­roy shared third on 203 with Eng­land’s Lee West­wood and Spain’s Jon Rahm another shot adrift.

North­ern Ire­land’s McIl­roy could over­take John­son for world num­ber one with a vic­tory if the Amer­i­can fin­ishes in a share of fourth or worse.

Thomas won the 2015 and 2016 CIMB Clas­sic ti­tles in Kuala Lumpur, then fol­lowed with backto-back crowns in the first two PGA events of 2017, the Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons and Sony Open, both in Hawaii.

Thomas birdied the sec­ond hole but found wa­ter off the sev­enth tee took a bo­gey at the par-3 hole, then res­cued par at nine af­ter find­ing the trees off the tee.

A 21-foot birdie at 10 jump­started his back nine and Thomas put his ap­proach four feet from the cup to set up a birdie at 12, set­ting the stage for the roar-in­duc­ing ace at 13.

Af­ter a bo­gey at 14, Thomas re­sponded with birdies at the par-5 15th, chip­ping from the rough to four feet, and par-4 16th, sink­ing an eight-foot putt.

John­son opened with a 20-foot ea­gle putt and sank a 17-foot birdie putt at the sec­ond, then dropped his ap­proach inches from the cup for a tap-in birdie at the par-5 sixth.

A 15-foot birdie at the par3 13th and six-foot birdie putt at the par-5 15th put John­son atop the leader­board but he stum­bled at 16, tak­ing a penalty stroke when his ball be­came stuck in a tree, only to have the ball fall to the ground mo­ments af­ter he had taken a penalty stroke for a lost ball and played on.

McIl­roy fired a 70 to stay in the ti­tle hunt.

Mick­el­son en­dured a wild back nine that fea­tured a fan pick­ing up his ball af­ter a shot and twice be­ing given re­lief from sprin­kler heads within bushes that dis­rupted his in­tended stance.

He ran off three birdies in a row start­ing at 15 but a clos­ing bo­gey left him on 68.

Two-time ma­jor cham­pion Jor­dan Spi­eth fired a course-record 63 to share 10th on 206 and ap­proach the fi­nal round with re­newed con­fi­dence af­ter a bo­gey-free day.

REUTERS PIC

Justin Thomas plays his shot from the eighth dur­ing the third round of the WGCMex­ico Cham­pi­onship on Satur­day.

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