Thomas fires incredible 61 to seize six-shot PGA lead

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Justin Thomas humbled rain-softened Medinah with dazzling shotmaking last Saturday, firing a course-record 11-under par 61 to seize a six-stroke lead after the third round of the United States (US) PGA BMW Championship.

An incredible day for the 2017 PGA Championship winner left the 26-year-old American on 21-under 195 after 54 holes at the suburban Chicago layout.

“It was just one of those freaky days when you get in a zone,” Thomas said. “It was just one of those days when you hit it unbelievable.

“I was able to put it close to the holes and make the putts. One of those days.”

The day-old course record of 63 set by Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama was shattered by Thomas, whose first-round 65 Thursday had shared the course record.

“I just hope the trend doesn’t continue and someone else breaks it tomorrow,” Thomas said.

Americans Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay were a distant second on 201 after each shot 68 with Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini another stroke adrift and Spain’s Jon Rahm fifth on 205.

Thomas birdied the first five holes, answered a bogey at six with a birdie at the par-five eighth, hit an amazing approach at the par-five 10th to set up a tap-in eagle and sank a 22-foot birdie chip from the rough at the par-five 14th.

And he wasn’t done. Not even close.

Justin Thomas of the United States celebrates with his caddie Jimmy Johnson. PHOTO: AFP

Thomas found water off the tee at the par-four 15th, then dropped a 63-yard shot two feet from the cup to rescue a tap-in par.

At the par-four 16th, Thomas holed out for eagle with an eight-iron from 181 yards, his uphill blast perfect without a view of the flagstick.

“It looked good in the air,” Thomas said. “It was nice. That’s something that was just a little bit of a bonus.”

At the par-three 17th, Thomas landed the ball six feet from the cup and sank the birdie putt.

“I hit a lot of great shots today but that (tee shot) was an under-rated one,” Thomas said. “I was so pumped up. Took a little off it and feathered it perfectly.”

Thomas rolled the ball past the cup on a 29-foot birdie putt at the par-four 18th then sank his four-footer for par to close a spectacular performance.

“I’m trying to win by as many as I possibly can,” Thomas said. “This course is going to be gettable tomorrow and a lot of guys could do what I did today. I’m going to have a have another good round and see if we can make some history.”

The US PGA playoff event will decide the 30 season points leaders who qualify for next week’s showdown at East Lake in Atlanta.

Reigning Masters champion Tiger Woods matched his lowest round since February with a 67 while reigning US Open champion Gary Woodland shot 64.

Sixth-ranked Woods, trying to finish well enough to qualify for a chance at defending his title in next week’s season-ending Tour Championship, was on 209, sharing 31st at the course where he won the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships.