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Thomas sets birdie record in first Players

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – In the midst of a successful rookie season, Justin Thomas remains aware of what he termed “Saturday struggles.” He had no such issues during the third round of The Players Championship.

Thomas set a tournament record with 10 birdies en route to a 7-under 65, a score that moved him to 8 under for the week and vaulted the 21-year-old into contention in his first start at this event.

“It was one of the best rounds I’ve probably ever played in competition,” Thomas said. “To do it at a stage like this, and a field and a golf course like this, to get back in the tournament was big.”

Thomas was the last player added to this week’s field, gaining entry when Victor Dubuisson withdrew. He was also on the wrong side of the cut line through 27 holes, but rallied with a back-nine 33 and carried that momentum into the third round.

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Thomas opened with four straight birdies and had five across his first six holes, making the turn in 4-under 32 before adding four more birdies on his inward half. He capped the round with a birdie on the difficult 18th hole after stuffing his approach from 193 yards within 4 feet of the hole.

“I had some numbers today where they were good and I could attack, and I just kept putting it in good spots,” Thomas said. “I was very comfortable on the greens, so it was nice to kind of get some numbers I could attack with.”

Thomas is no stranger to low scores – he leads the Tour in total birdies, has four top-10 finishes and fired a 61 earlier this year at the Sony Open. The red numbers tend to dry up on Saturdays, though, as his scoring average dips from 23rd (Round 1) and 15th (Round 2) to 83rd.

He attributed the trend to situations where he would play his way into one of the later tee times on the weekend, only to see other players passing him in the standings before he had even teed off.

“I felt like I had to make a lot of birdies. For some reason, that was really tough for me,” Thomas said. “Today I figured I would be one of the first couple groups out and nobody would pass me yet.”