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Golf roundup: Justin Thomas leads by two after clean card at Muirfield Village

Justin Thomas reacts to a putt on the eighth green during the third round of the Workday Charity Open on July 11, 2020.
Justin Thomas, shown on the eighth green, shot a 66 on Saturday and leads by two over Viktor Hovland.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

Justin Thomas kept another clean card Saturday at Muirfield Village and shot a bogey-free, six-under-par 66 to turn a three-stroke deficit into a two-shot lead in the Workday Charity Open in Dublin, Ohio.

Thomas first had to run off a string of birdies to stay within range of Collin Morikawa. And when Morikawa began to fade with three bogeys in a four-hole stretch around the turn, Thomas converted on the par-fives and played wisely on the short par-four 14th for another birdie to hold off Viktor Hovland.

The final group is a glimpse of golf’s next generation.

Thomas is the proven star, already a major champion and former world No. 1 at age 27 as he goes after his third victory this season and the 13th victory of his career.

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Hovland and Morikawa had just left college at this time last year.

Hovland, a former U.S. Amateur champion from Norway, had eight birdies in his round of 66 and was two shots behind. Morikawa, a La Cañada High graduate, had to birdie the 18th for a 72.

Thomas figures it won’t be the last time they all play together.

“It’ll be fun to hang with those guys tomorrow, but at the end of the day I’m worried about myself and trying to win a golf tournament and have a good round,” he said.

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Thomas was at 16-under 200. The final round will start early because of heavy storms in the forecast Sunday afternoon, with threesomes starting on both tees.

High schools are coming up with their own customized masks, mostly featuring their team’s logos and school’s emblems.

Morikawa had the lead for 31 consecutive holes, dating to the 15th hole in the opening round, until missing the ninth green with a short iron, hitting a wild tee shot on the 10th that led to bogey, and sending his tee shot on the par-three 12th well over the green in such a bad spot that even making bogey was hard work.

“I put myself in spots you couldn’t put yourself in,” Morikawa said. “Couldn’t really figure out wind directions, how much to adjust. But whole new day tomorrow, and kind of glad I fought it out through even par got myself three back. So that can change really quickly tomorrow.”

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Hovland, who won the Puerto Rico Open this year, got back in the game quickly by opening with a pair of birdies at the start and making birdie on all the par-fives. He also took on the 14th hole, where the tees have been moved up for this tournament to play at 310 yards — reachable from the tee, but with bunkers left and water to the right.

Hovland hit his tee shot to 30 feet for a two-putt birdie.

Thomas tried to drive the green with a three-wood Friday and had to work for his par. With the wind slightly at his back, he opted for a six-iron off the tee and a short iron into the green. That led to a 10-foot birdie putt.

Morikawa went left of the bunkers off the tee and had no chance to get it close with the green running away from him.

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Collin Morikawa watches his shot on the eighth hole during the third round of the Workday Charity Open on July 11, 2020.
Collin Morikawa, a La Cañada High graduate, led after two rounds but shot an even-par 72 on Saturday and is three strokes off the lead.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

Hovand was thrilled to be in this position, especially with how his week started. He was three over through 10 holes Thursday and finished with six birdies over his last eight holes. He followed with rounds of 67 and 66.

The spotlight will be on youth — Thomas is the veteran in this group — with a few others on the fringe of contention.

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Sam Burns, a 23-year-old from Louisiana State, had a 70 and joined Kevin Streelman (71) five shots back at 11-under 205. Ian Poulter, back at Muirfield Village for the first time since 2009 because of the reconfigured schedule, had a 69 and was six strokes behind, along with Rory Sabbatini, who had a 69.

“It’s going to have to be a low one tomorrow,” Poulter said.

The biggest surprise was M.J. Daffue, a 31-year-old from South Africa who played college golf at Lamar and has been struggling to make it as a pro. He was a Monday qualifier for the Workday Charity Open, getting into only his second PGA Tour event. He had to birdie his final hole Saturday morning to make the cut. And then he made an 18-foot eagle putt late in his round of 65, the best score Saturday.

He was seven strokes behind and loving every minute of his time around the course Jack Nicklaus built.

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The tour needs this tournament to end before the weather. The course is to be closed Monday to replace all the signage and remove the 10 electronic scoreboards for the Memorial.

It will be the first time in 63 years the PGA Tour has back-to-back tournaments on the same course.

Mardy Fish leads celebrity event in Nevada

Former tennis player Mardy Fish birdied the final five holes to take a three-point lead over former Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams in the American Century Championship in Stateline, Nev.

The celebrity tournament is being played without fans at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The $600,000 purse and additional money are being donated to organizations supporting COVID-19 relief efforts, the Equal Justice Initiative and Lake Tahoe regional nonprofits.

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Fish had a 37-point round under the modified Stableford scoring system. He opened with a bogey, then made 10 birdies in a nine-under 63 to push his two-day points total to 55.

The nearly 300-pound Williams is trying to become the first lineman to win the event. He had a 27-point day, making an eagle, five birdies and six bogeys in a 71.

New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing mild symptoms, according to manager Aaron Boone.

Former pitcher John Smoltz was third at 37 points. Two-time defending champion Tony Romo was tied for fourth at 36 with Dell Curry and Derek Lowe.

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Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry was 11th with 30 points.

Charles Barkley was 70th in the 71-player field with minus-50 points. Former running back Eddie George was three points behind Barkley.


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