LOS ANGELES (AFP) – World number three Justin Thomas birdied two of the last three holes to overtake second-ranked Jon Rahm for the lead after yesterday’s third round of the US PGA Zozo Championship.
Thomas fired a five-under par 67 to stand on 19-under 197 after 54 holes at Sherwood Country Club, edging ahead of Spain’s Rahm, who fired a 63 to stand on 198, with fellow American Lanto Griffin third on 199 after a 68.
“I can’t exactly go out and try to protect a lead,” Thomas said. “I’ve got to go out and build it. I need to play my game. I can’t do anything about everyone else.”
Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz and Americans Ryan Palmer and Patrick Cantlay shared fourth on 200, with Cantlay bogey-free through three days.
Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner, is chasing his 14th career tour title and his third of the year after the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January and the WGC St Jude Invitational in August.
“I’ve been here a couple times and I have been successful,” Thomas said. “I’ll be able to draw on those past experiences tomorrow.”
Thomas opened with back-to-back birdies, followed a birdie at the par-4 seventh with a bogey at the par-3 eighth. He added birdies at the par-5 11th and 16th holes and curled in a birdie putt from just inside 28 feet at the par-3 17th to seize the lead alone.
“It’s huge,” Thomas said. “A day like today I felt like I was far from my best stuff. To salvage 5-under, which when it’s like this you need to do, is huge. I need to go back to what I was doing and get it done tomorrow.”
Standing in his way will be Rahm, who will overtake absent Dustin Johnson for world number one with a solo second-place finish or better.
Rahm, who hit every fairway, went six-under for his first seven holes, birdied to begin the back nine and again at the par-5 13th and par-3 17th in his sizzling 63.
“The course is gettable and lucky for me I started on fire,” Rahm said. “I was able to make a few putts and I was able to keep it going.”
“Somebody is going to come out tomorrow and shoot low,” Rahm said. “They have nothing to lose.”