Thomas’ ea­gle lands him in the record books

He shoots a 63 and trails lefty Har­man by one as par takes a beat­ing at Erin Hills.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By John Cherwa

ERIN, Wis. — A U.S. Open short on big names and a leader­board that at times seemed like a phone book of ran­dom peo­ple found a bright star Satur­day un­der a par­tially cloudy sky at Erin Hills.

Justin Thomas made his­tory when he shot a 63, a nine-un­der score that was the low­est rel­a­tive to par in U.S. Open his­tory. And the 63 tied the Open mark set by Johnny Miller at Oak­mont in 1973, and equaled by by Jack Nick­laus and Tom Weiskopf (1980) and Vi­jay Singh (2003).

As good as that round was, Thomas has not run away with the tour­na­ment. In fact, he’s not even lead­ing after three rounds.

Brian Har­man has a oneshot lead at 12 un­der. Tied with Thomas at 11 un­der are Brooks Koepka and Eng­land’s Tommy Fleet­wood.

[Golf, Rickie Fowler is at 10 un­der.

“I’m not sure when it’s go­ing to sink in or when I’m go­ing to re­al­ize what I did,” Thomas said. “I know one thing, if it hap­pened to­mor­row and the re­sult is what I want it to be, then I’d prob­a­bly have a dif­fer­ent feel­ing. I’m just so ex­cited to give my­self a great chance to win this golf tour­na­ment.”

Thomas’ most dra­matic mo­ment hap­pened on the 667-yard, par-five 18th hole when he hit his three-wood sec­ond shot more than 300 yards. The ball hit just short of the green, popped for­ward and rolled eight feet past the hole.

“I ob­vi­ously needed to nuke it,” Thomas, 24, said of his three-wood, which he later called his best of the round. “But I just felt like I could get it up in the air enough to hold the green, as soft as they were. And it came out nicely.”

After wait­ing while play­ing part­ner Jonathan Ran­dolph hit his third, fourth, fifth and sixth shots, Thomas rolled in his putt for an ea­gle.

“I was ex­cited to take the lead,” Thomas said. “I was ex­cited to shoot 63. I had no idea that nine un­der was the best ever in an Open, so that was pretty cool once I saw my card. The guys at the scor­ing ta­ble told me that, so I was pretty pumped.”

Thomas started his record round with birdies on the first two holes. On No. 1, a par five, he was 85 feet short of the hole on his sec­ond shot and got the easy up and down. On the 331-yard sec­ond hole, his drive was 46 feet short of the hole and, again, he got up and down.

He gave back a stroke on No. 4 when his drive went into the right fes­cue and his sec­ond shot was over the green. He birdied the fifth with a 19-foot putt that he started from off the green in the op­po­site di­rec­tion of the cup.

After par­ring the sixth, he had a run of three birdies. On No. 7, he sank a 15-footer. On No. 8, he drilled his 154yard ap­proach shot to about two feet. And on No. 9 he made a 21-foot putt.

He bo­geyed the 10th hole when he hit a bad sec­ond shot right of the green. Then he picked up a birdie on No. 12 with a nine-foot putt. He drove the green on the 288-yard, par-four 15th and just missed a short ea­gle putt. He made a 27-footer for birdie on No. 17 be­fore the his­tory-mak­ing fin­ish.

The Louisville na­tive is not new to suc­cess. He won the first two tour­na­ments of this year, both in Hawaii. In the Sony Open he be­came the sev­enth player to shoot a sub-60 round with a 59. He won that tour­na­ment by seven shots.

There were a lot of low scores Satur­day. The course took an inch of rain overnight, mak­ing it about as men­ac­ing as a golden re­triever puppy. Thirty-two play­ers had sub-par rounds, the most for the third round of an Open.

“It was def­i­nitely con­ducive for good scores to­day,” Thomas said. “When you give us soft greens and not much wind, you know there are go­ing to be some good scores. I was just happy that I was the one to take ad­van­tage of it to­day.”

Har­man, who is hop­ing to be­come the first lefthander to win the U.S. Open, must have felt over­looked given Thomas’ ac­com­plish­ment. But, ob­vi­ously, his 67, with six birdies and one bo­gey, was a pretty good round.

He had a chance to ex­tend his lead to two but missed an 11-footer for birdie on 18.

“I’m mo­ti­vated by the fact that I’ve made a plan and I’ve stuck to the plan so far,” Har­man said. “Ob­vi­ously, I have no idea what [Sun­day] holds, but I’m more mo­ti­vated by the way I’m strik­ing the ball. It’s the best I’ve struck the ball in a long time. And my short game is pretty good. I’ve been putting it pretty good. So I’m ex­cited about all those things.”

Har­man, 30, joined the PGA Tour in 2012 and has won two tour­na­ments, in­clud­ing the Wells Fargo Cham­pi­onship this year.

There are 15 play­ers within six strokes of Har­man, so it’s still a wide-open tour­na­ment.

“It’s go­ing to be weird,” Thomas said about the time he has to pass be­fore tee­ing off with Har­man in the last group Sun­day. “I don’t know what I’m go­ing to feel tonight or if I’m go­ing to sleep well. … I know I’m go­ing to be ner­vous, but it’s a good ner­vous. That’s why I play, to get my­self in this po­si­tion.”

One thing you can count on Sun­day is that the streak of six ma­jors be­ing won by a first-time win­ner will grow to seven.

The high­est former ma­jor win­ners are Ser­gio Gar­cia and Louis Oosthuizen at four un­der, tied for 17th.

Erik S. Lesser Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

NO ONE HAD SHOT a nine-un­der-par round at the U.S. Open un­til Justin Thomas’ 63 at Erin Hills.

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