Thomas takes over as Woods fades away

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Golf - By Doug Fer­gu­son As­so­ci­ated Press

Thai­land’s Por­nanong Phatlum says she likes to sing songs to her­self to keep calm dur­ing high pres­sure sit­u­a­tions.

AKRON, Ohio — Justin Thomas pulled away from a crowd with five birdies in the mid­dle of his round for a

3-un­der 67 and a three-shot lead go­ing into the fi­nal round of the Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional as he goes af­ter his third vic­tory this sea­son on the PGA Tour.

No one could keep pace with Thomas, least of all Tiger Woods.

Start­ing the third round Satur­day five shots be­hind, Woods didn’t make a birdie un­til a 12-foot putt on the

12th hole, and he didn’t make an­other. He wound up with a 73, leav­ing him 11 shots back and end­ing his streak of 10 straight rounds at par or bet­ter dat­ing to the U.S. Open.

“It was very sim­i­lar to the first day,” Woods said. “Wasn’t very sharp that first day, but I made ev­ery­thing. So today was about the same.”

That wasn’t a prob­lem for Thomas, whose six birdies in­cluded a chip-in from

30 feet be­hind the green on the par-3 12th.

He was at 14-un­der 196, three shots clear of Rory McIl­roy (67) and Ian Poul­ter (70).

Thomas fell be­hind early with two bo­geys in three holes, and a 10-foot par save in be­tween from be­hind the fourth green kept him from fall­ing fur­ther be­hind. Poul­ter set the pace early and had a three-shot lead at one point un­til he dropped his shot from the bunker on the

par-3 sev­enth, and then had a mixed bag of birdies and bo­geys that kept him from get­ting closer to the lead.

McIl­roy played bo­geyfree and will find a fa­mil­iar face wait­ing for him on the first tee Sun­day. McIl­roy and Thomas live in South Florida, prac­tice at The Bear’s Club that Jack Nick­laus built and spent sev­eral Justin Thomas shot 3-un­der 67 to take a three-shot lead go­ing into the fi­nal round of the Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional.

days prac­tic­ing last week.

“We’ve played a lot,” Thomas said, “but never in this sit­u­a­tion.”

Ja­son Day, who threw away a chance to win the Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional two years ago, had a 69 and was four shots be­hind. Marc Leish­man, who played along­side Woods, shot 67 and joined Kyle Stan­ley (70) five shots be­hind.

The course started to get a lit­tle firmer. Poul­ter had a

62 on Thurs­day. Tommy Fleet­wood shot 63 on Fri­day. The best any­one could do in the third round was a

65 by Rickie Fowler, which only got him within six shots.

Thomas fig­ured that out quickly.

He made an un­usual birdie on the par-5 sec­ond by hit­ting his tee shot in the first cut of the third fair­way. Blocked by threes, he opted for a 5-wood that started out to­ward the third tee and

sliced over the trees to the rough, pin-high about 15 feet away from an up-and­down.

Af­ter a bo­gey from the trees at No. 3, Thomas went at a back pin on the tough fourth hole and the ball bounded over the green in thick rough. He chopped at his chip and did well to run it 10 feet by the hole, mak­ing it for par. He bo­geyed the next from a bunker, and fell three shots be­hind, but that par save on No. 4 helped by not drop­ping a shot, and by un­der­stand­ing how the course was play­ing.

Thomas said he told his cad­die Jimmy John­son, “We can’t see pin, hit pin.”

Fleet­wood went so far long on the fourth hole that it went 30 yards over the green. He chipped 50 feet by the hole and three­p­utted for a dou­ble bo­gey, the start of what turned out to be a sloppy day and a 74 that dropped him seven shots be­hind.



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