Justin Thomas experienced the kind of round about which most golfers only dream. The swing is effortless, the shots are on target, and the putts find the center of the hole.
For Thomas, that combination added up to a blistering 11-under 61 in the second round of the CIMB Classic. At 15 under, he leads by one shot at the halfway point as he looks for his first PGA Tour win.
"It was just one of those days when you kind of get unconscious and get rolling out there. They don't happen too often," Thomas said. "I hit it really well today. I gave myself a lot of really close, easy birdie putts. If I missed the green, I missed it in a good spot where I could get up-and-down. So it was a fun day."
Thomas began the day six shots behind Scott Piercy, but he quickly moved up the standings after playing his first five holes in 5 under. He admitted that thoughts of shooting a 59 began to creep into his head around the 12th hole, when he capped a run of four straight birdies, but his chances became more realistic when he got as low as 11 under after 15 holes.
Needing two more birdies over his final three holes, he instead closed with a trio of pars.
"I mean, they're all pretty easy holes. They're all wedge holes," he said of the closing stretch. "So it was obviously unfortunate not to get that number, but I'm sure I'll have many more chances in my career."
Thomas, 22, just completed a stellar rookie season, but often struggled down the stretch when contending on the weekend. His best finish was a T-4 at the Sanderson Farms Championship, although he held the lead at The Greenbrier Classic with eight holes to go before falling all the way to a T-54 finish.
Thomas finished 32nd in the final FedEx Cup standings, barely missing out on a spot in the Tour Championship that would have brought with it a Masters berth. He opened the new season with a career-best T-3 finish in Napa, and this weekend he has a chance to earn both a victory and a trip to Augusta National - all while cementing his status as one of the Tour's rising stars.
To do so, he plans to lean on the lessons learned from missed chances earlier this year.
"I just learned to stay more patient than anything. Obviously it's a great position to be in, but there's a lot of golf left," he said. "Looking at the leaderboard, you need to make a lot of birdies just to kind of keep pace or get ahead of pace. So I just need to stay patient and play well, just keep doing what I'm doing and have some fun out there."