Thomas leads Bridgestone Invitational; McIlroy and Poulter three shots back in Ohio
Ohio, August 4: World Number Three Justin Thomas will take a three-shot lead into the final day of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after producing a stunning 67 on a day of tougher scoring at Firestone Country Club.
Thomas, who will defend his US PGA Championship title at Bellerive Country Club next week, has a star-studded chasing pack breathing down his neck, with 2014 champion Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter in a tie for second on 11 under.
With the course firming up throughout the afternoon, the scoring average soared on day three but halfway co-leader Thomas seemed unfazed, mixing six birdies with three bogeys on Saturday to get to 14 under par.
McIlroy posted a bogey-free 67, with his birdies coming at the second, ninth and 17th on day three, while Poulter’s 70 was made up of four birdies and four bogeys.
Major Champion Jason Day was another shot back on ten under after his third-round 69, which included a chip-in birdie at the short 15th.
Marc Leishman and Kyle Stanley were tied for fifth on nine under, one shot ahead of Spain’s Jon Rahm and American Rickie Fowler, who made five birdies and no bogeys.
Justin Thomas said: “I played well again today. I didn’t get off to the start that I have been the last couple days, but made a good birdie on two after a not very good drive, but I got away with one. Made a couple bogeys there on the par threes with a pretty easy bunker shot, so that was a little upsetting. But overall I really, really played well in the middle of the round and made a lot of key birdies
“It will be fun. Rory and I have played together a lot. We’ve played together a lot in tournaments, but never in this kind of situation, so it will be different. We’ll both be doing our own thing. I’m sure we’ll chat here and there between shots, but he’s out there doing his thing and I’m out here doing mine.
“It feels great. I felt like I had been close. Like I said, the results and the scores didn’t show. I’m just happy to finally play this place well. Obviously I have a day left, but I played three really good days of golf. I’m glad I played it well for it to move next year. We still have a day left to just keep sticking to our game plan. I’m excited for the opportunity tomorrow. I guess it’s been a little while in my eyes, but have a lot of really good players that are going to be chasing me down so I need to play well tomorrow.”
Rory McIlroy said: “Best I’ve hit it off the tee, and probably the best I’ve hit it overall. I hit some better wedge shots out there, which was good to see. Wish I could have converted a couple more of the chances, but it sort of all evened out. I holed a couple really nice putts for par in the middle of the back nine, so happy with that. The course is firming up a little bit. The greens are still receptive, but it’s definitely playing a little bit tougher today than it has done the previous two days. Happy with everything.
“It’s a great opportunity to test what I’ve been trying to work on this week, test it under the gun on a Sunday when you have a chance to win. I’m excited for it. I think it’s going to be great prep for next week as well, so I’ll obviously be fully engaged to try to win this tournament but knowing that if I play well tomorrow
it puts me in the right frame of mind going into next week as well.
“I mean, even when I’m getting myself out of position, I’m able to get myself back in position and get it up and down or hole a crucial putt for par. Yeah, it’s been good. The more you can limit the mistakes around here, the better. I’m just probably going to need a couple more birdies tomorrow than I had today to have a chance.”
Ian Poulter, who lead on the opening day, said: “The course is drying up a lot. I didn’t think it would dry this much, but when you look at the forecast, hot, blue sky today, definitely kind of changed some of the second shots into some of those pin locations, and it was tricky. A little bit of wind out there, a couple of tough pin positions, you definitely saw a different golf course today to what you did the first two days.
“Huge buzz. To be in contention, I’ve done it more probably this year than I have in previous years. It’s a great feeling. That’s why you practice, that’s why you put the hours in and it’s why you enjoy the game of golf, to get the adrenaline rush you get when you’re right there having to hole a 15-footer or even a three-footer. It makes all the practice worthwhile. You can enjoy it and it’s a great rush.”