CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After a bogey on the sixth hole during the third round of the PGA Championship, Justin Thomas stood six shots off the lead and seemed out of contention to win the season’s final major.
But while Thomas steadied the ship, he watched the rest of the leaders kick it in reverse, and now he suddenly has a very realistic shot at the trophy heading into the final round.
Thomas played his final 12 holes in 3 under, navigating his way around a treacherous stretch at Quail Hollow Club without dropping a single shot. On a day when co-leaders Kevin Kisner and Hideki Matsuyama combined to shoot 3 over, Thomas made up significant ground with a 2-under 69 and now sits in a tie for fourth, two shots behind Kisner.
“I don’t like to think that I stole one. I like to think that I’m more mature now, and I can manage an under par round when I don’t have my best stuff,” Thomas said. “I think that’s why I feel like I’m ready to win a major championship now versus last year, I probably didn’t have that.”
Thomas had three wins this season before the calendar flipped to February, and he set a U.S. Open scoring record with a third-round 63 in June. But he wasn’t able to build upon that momentum during the finale at Erin Hills, a close call he hopes to have learned from.
“You really, really have to be patient,” Thomas said. “Just being patient and accepting what the course gives you more. I had a really bad break on Sunday on 4 and I think it flustered me a little bit. I just didn’t handle it very well. Hopefully it doesn’t happen tomorrow. If something like that happens, I think I can handle it a little better.”
Thomas estimated that he had his “B or C game” at his disposal during the third round at Quail Hollow, an afternoon during which he moved up the standings despite making only two putts over 6 feet. Given a little help with some late bogeys by the leaders, Thomas now has a surprisingly strong chance to capture a watershed title.
“What I did today was definitely a confidence boost,” Thomas said. “It’s not the same as playing great. I’m definitely more tired than if I would have played great, but I will definitely take it.”