Justin Thomas squanders four-stroke lead at Riviera to blow chance at victory
Justin Thomas worked his way around the holes at Riviera on Sunday.
Around the edge of hole after hole, that is, his golf ball peeking in the cup before tauntingly lipping out.
Consequently, he saw his four-shot lead evaporate in the final round of the Genesis Open, as J.B. Holmes overtook him to win the tournament. Thomas shot a four-over-par 75 to finish second at 13 under, a shot ahead of Si Woo Kim.
“Hit some great shots the last four holes. Really, the last five holes,” Thomas said. “Just hit a putt too hard and then misread one. But it is what it is and just got to find a way to learn from it.”
The blown lead of Thomas ranks among the biggest on the PGA Tour in the last three years, tying him with Paul Casey’s four-shot collapse in last year’s Travelers Championship, but not as bad as Dustin Johnson’s six-shot meltdown in the 2017 WGC-HSBC Champions.
Thomas endured a disastrous stretch on the greens on his final back nine, three-putting No. 10, four-putting No. 13 and three-putting No. 14. Heading into that rough patch, he had gone 190 holes without three-putting.
On multiple occasions, his putts rolled right past the edge of the cup or agonizingly rode the rim, taking a hard turn.
After two days of rain to start the tournament, followed by a postcard Saturday, Sunday was mostly sunny but with whipping winds. That didn’t just affect shots from tee to green, but putts as well.
On his worst hole, the double-bogey he took on No. 13, Thomas rushed a four-foot bogey putt, attempting it even though a gust disrupted his focus. The ball lipped out, leaving him with a foot-long putt for double.
“I’ve just got to stop doing that,” he said of not backing off the putt to regroup. “I mean, I could feel the wind coming and I got scared, so I tried to hit it harder. And I did hit it harder, and that’s why I missed it. I jammed it. That’s not the speed that I hit putts at when I’m putting well.
Putting had not been a problem for Thomas heading into the final round. He had 26, 24 and 24 putts in his first three rounds, before racking up 34 in the fourth round. In his first three rounds, he ranked first, fifth and 10th in strokes gained in putting — a favorite tour statistic — but was 69th in the final round.
Still, he had a chance to force a playoff, but rolled his 23-foot birdie putt past the cup on No. 18, which allowed fellow Kentuckian Holmes to win it with a two-putt for par.
“J.B. won, he played great,” said Thomas, who has finished in the top five in four of his last seven starts. “But it’s always a bummer to hand him a tournament. I feel like I should have won that thing.”
What a miserable day for Jordan Spieth, who shot a 10-over 81 in the final round to tumble out of contention. After three rounds, he was tied for fourth at nine under, but wound up tied for 51st at one over.
It was only the third time that Spieth failed to break 80 in a round. He shot 80 in the third round of the 2014 Tour Championship, and 82 in the third round of the 2013 Memorial.
Spieth has gotten off to strong starts of late before fading. In his last three starts, he has had a first-round scoring average of 65.0, only to drop to 72.7 in Rounds 2-4.
At Riviera, Spieth was one of 10 golfers to have bogey-free opening rounds. But Sunday, he had an inglorious career first — a double, triple and quadruple bogey in the same round.
Tiger Woods finished tied for 15th, which marks his seventh top-15 result in 13 starts in the event.
Still, he has yet to win it.
The Genesis Open is the only event on the tour in which Woods has made double-digit starts without a victory.
He had his moments in this one, however. He had three eagles, which is notable in his astounding career. Twice, he has had four eagles in a tournament — the 1996 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and the 2010 Masters.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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