KAPALUA, Hawaii – Eighteen holes remain in the SBS Tournament of Champions and Justin Thomas is out in front looking to put the finishing touches on what would be his third career PGA Tour victory. But Hideki Matsuyama, the hottest player on the planet, is hot on his heals. Here are a few takeaways from Saturday at Kapalua:
• Justin Thomas has put on a clinic this week and, after shooting his third consecutive 67, is a little miffed that he didn’t separate himself by more than two shots over Matsuyama and by more over the rest of the field.
Although Thomas eagled the par-4 12th hole, he felt like he left up to five other shots on the course, mostly on the back nine. Right now he’s 18 under par.
“I was trying to get to 20 (under). I felt like that was very, very doable,” Thomas said. “I easily could have.
“I feel like I could be at 22 or 23, just as easy, as well. I just was trying to make birdies. It’s a course where you can just get so hot.”
• Exactly one person has beat Matsuyama in his last five tournaments. Justin Thomas.
Matsuyama has won four of his last five tournaments, but the one he didn’t win (CIMB Classic), he finished in second place, three shots behind Thomas.
“Justin doesn’t have any weaknesses at all in his game,” Matsuyama said. “He hits it long, has a marvelous short game, putts well, hits the ball well. We’ve got to go low tomorrow to be able to catch him.”
• If William McGirt is surprised he’s playing well this week, then you should be too.
“I haven’t played much golf since Sea Island [RSM Classic]. Really since the Tour Championship,” he said Saturday after shooting a third-round 66, which tied for the best round of the day. “I played two tournaments in the fall. Haven’t played much at all. Kind of had to make my own offseason since we don’t get an offseason anymore.”
Hard to tell McGirt is rusty after this performance. He’s made 16 birdies (seven in the third round), only two bogeys and is tied for third place, four shots behind Thomas.
• Ryan Moore made the business decision about five years ago – there is no such thing as a working vacation.
“Let’s just say that if I’m at a golf tournament, I’m here to golf and I’m here to play a golf tournament,” he said. “Doesn’t mean I can’t go hang out with my son and play on the beach for a few minutes afterwards, but I’m not going to do anything to wear myself out and exhaust myself so the next day I’m tired on the golf course or playing golf.”
The mindset seems to be working, even though it’s easier said than done. It’s difficult not to get carried away in the beauty that is Maui and all the other off-course activities that are available, but Moore has been all business this week. He shot 67 the first two days and was disappointed with a third-round 71, but he’s still tied for third place.