Justin Thomas enjoys ‘one of those freaky days in the zone’ with record 61

American star breaks course record at Medinah to take six-shot lead at BMW

 Justin Thomas celebrates after chipping in on the 14th hole during the third round of the BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club  in Illinois. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Justin Thomas celebrates after chipping in on the 14th hole during the third round of the BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club in Illinois. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

 

Justin Thomas enjoyed “one of those freaky days in the zone” as he carded a course-record 11-under-par 61 to vault to a six-stroke lead in the third round at the BMW Championship at Medinah on Saturday.

An eagle with an eight-iron from 180 yards at the par-four 16th was just one highlight of an eventful day for the American, who broke by two strokes the previous best score at Medinah, set just 24 hours previously by Hideki Matsuyama.

Halfway leader Matsuyama could not replicate that performance on Saturday, plunging 10 strokes behind with a 73.

Thomas posted a 21-under 195 total in the penultimate event of the PGA Tour season, while compatriots Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay fired 68s for a share of second place on 15-under.

“I hit the ball pretty unbelievable,” Thomas told broadcaster NBC. “It’s not like I made any long putts. I hit it close to the hole, and took advantage of some opportunities.

“I got a couple of good breaks and that’s stuff that happens when you shoot 11 under.”

Thomas started his round with five successive birdies, and later recorded a tap-in eagle at the par-five 10th.

The highlight reel continued when he chipped in from 20 feet from lush rough to birdie the 14th hole.

He then drove his tee shot into a pond at the 15th and took a penalty stroke, but still saved par, setting the stage for his most unlikely eagle at the par-four 16th, where his ball landed a couple of yards in front of the cup and trickled in.

“It looked good in the air,” he said. “That’s a little bit of a bonus.”

Thomas finished with two eagles, eight birdies and one bogey, and vowed to continue attacking the rain-softened course in the final round.

“I’m trying to win by as many as I possibly can. If I just keep playing how I’ve been playing I feel like I can shoot another good round.”

The performance was a reminder of the talent possessed by Thomas, who clinched his first Major title two years ago at the PGA Championship and has been ranked number one in the world.

But his 2019 campaign suffered a setback when he injured a wrist in March and he eventually took six weeks off to let it heal, missing the PGA Championship before missing the cut at the US Open.

Rory McIlroy dropped two places to a share of 13th position after a two-under 70. British Open champion Shane Lowry had his best round of the week at the no-cut event, a four-under 68 that included an eagle-three on the par-five fifth moving him to two under. Graeme McDowell is also on two under after a one-over 73.

LEADERBOARD
USA unless stated, par 72

195 Justin Thomas 65 69 61

201 Tony Finau 67 66 68, Patrick Cantlay 66 67 68

202 Rory Sabbatini (Svk) 67 68 67

203 Jon Rahm (Esp) 68 69 66

204 Lucas Glover 66 69 69, Brandt Snedeker 66 71 67, Corey Conners (Can) 69 66 69

205 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 69 63 73, Xander Schauffele 67 68 70, Kevin Kisner 68 68 69, Rickie Fowler 67 70 68

206 Joel Dahmen 66 71 69, Rory McIlroy (N Irl) 69 67 70, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 70 66 70, Adam Hadwin (Can) 67 68 71, Kevin Tway 69 67 70

207 Wyndham Clark 69 73 65, Adam Scott (Aus) 67 71 69, Paul Casey (Eng) 70 70 67, Gary Woodland 70 73 64, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 70 69 68, Patrick Reed 68 71 68

208 JT Poston 68 74 66, Max Homa 70 67 71, Jason Kokrak 65 73 70, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 74 65 69, Cheng-Tsung Pan (Tai) 71 67 70, Sungjae Im (Kor) 70 72 66, Si Woo Kim (Kor) 70 67 71

209 Abraham Ancer (Mex) 68 72 69, Tiger Woods 71 71 67, Chez Reavie 67 68 74, Ryan Moore 71 69 69, Webb Simpson 70 72 67

210 Jason Day (Aus) 70 71 69, Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 72 70 68, Vaughn Taylor 73 70 67, Ryan Palmer 68 72 70, Byeong-Hun An (Kor) 71 70 69, Marc Leishman (Aus) 72 71 67, Scott Piercy 67 73 70

211 Brooks Koepka 68 71 72, Keegan Bradley 69 74 68, Ian Poulter (Eng) 70 70 71, Jordan Spieth 70 71 70

212 Phil Mickelson 70 73 69, Collin Morikawa 67 73 72, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 72 69 71, Charles Howell III 70 69 73

213 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 72 73 68, Andrew Putnam 71 69 73, Jim Furyk 66 72 75, Adam Long 72 70 71, Bryson DeChambeau 71 71 71, Billy Horschel 71 73 69, Keith Mitchell 72 74 67

214 Dustin Johnson 70 72 72, Justin Rose (Eng) 68 73 73, Graeme McDowell (N Irl) 69 72 73, Shane Lowry (Irl) 72 74 68, Matt Kuchar 71 70 73

215 Sung Kang (Kor) 69 73 73, Nate Lashley 72 73 70, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa) 69 72 74

216 JB Holmes 69 71 76, Troy Merritt 69 76 71

217 Harold Varner III 72 74 71, Cameron Champ 71 68 78

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