Justin Thomas pulled away from a crowd with five birdies in the middle of his round for a three-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, and I didn’t make anything.”
That wasn’t a problem for Thomas, whose six birdies included a chip-in from 30 feet behind the green on the par-three 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-three seventh, and then had a mixed bag of birdies and bogeys that kept him from getting closer to the lead.
McIlroy played bogey-free 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 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-five second by hitting his tee shot in the first cut of the third fairway. Blocked by threes, he opted for a five-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-and-down.
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 three-putted for a double bogey, the start of what turned out to be a sloppy day and a 74 that dropped him seven shots behind.
Pornanong singing to keep lead of Women’s British Open
Pornanong Phatlum made the Royal Lytham course sing for her again as she held on to her overnight one-shot lead of the Women’s British Open after the third round on Saturday.
Pornanong has been singing Thai songs in her head to calm herself on a links course she admits to struggling on. Though any struggling hasn’t been apparent, yet.
She birdied the third, sixth, eighth, and 11th holes, and dropped her first shot of the major on the par-three 12th, a bogey. It added up to a solid three-under-par 69 and the prospect of a first win on the LPGA Tour, let alone a first major title.
“Singing in my head makes me come down more, not get too nervous,” Pornanong said.
She was at 13 under overall, one stroke ahead of playing partner Georgina Hall of England, whose scrambling through an erratic round kept her in contention also for a first major title. She birdied three of the last four holes to join Pornanong in the final group on Sunday.
Ryu So-yeon was third at 11 under, one shot behind Hall after climbing the leaderboard with a run of six birdies from the fifth to the 12th.
The South Korean, who has three top-10 British Open finishes, said: “Winning this tournament has always been my goal for the year. I’m in a pretty good position.”
Two-time major champion Park Sung-hyun (69) was a further shot back with Mamiko Higa (71) and Minjee Lee (71).
Higa is aiming to become the first female Japanese golfer to win a major title since 1977.
The leaders are also chasing history.
Pornanong is trying to become the second Thai female to win a major championship after Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016. Hall would be the first Englishwomen to win the Open in 14 years.
While Pornanong will be singing to herself in the final round, Hall will be counting on experience. She was in the final group in the Open last year, and finished in a tie for third. “It was great to get so much support, I haven’t really had that before because I play in America quite a bit,” Hall said. “There were so many people behind me that I feel that was the reason I had good shots.”
Perry shoots 12-under 60 for lead in Champions Tour event
Kenny Perry tied a tournament record with a 12-under 60 and has a five-shot lead after two rounds of the 3M Championship.
Looking to become just the second three-time winner of the event, Perry had two eagles and eight birdies at a wet TPC Twin Cities. His two-round score of 126 is a tournament record.
Paul Goydos shot 60 in the second round en route to winning last year’s event.
Perry, who won the event in 2014 and 2015, shot 30 on the front side, including holing out from 106 yards for eagle at the par-five sixth. He birdied Nos. 12, 13, 16 and 17 on the back nine before an eagle at 18. Glen Day (65) is five shots back; Tom Gillis (67), Lee Janzen (68) and Jerry Smith (70) are at 10 under.