Players continued their assault on defenseless Medinah on Saturday, and it was Justin Thomas who led the charge with a barrage of birdies and eagles to take command of the BMW Championship. Here’s everything you need to know after three rounds in Chicagoland:
Leaderboard: Justin Thomas (-21), Tony Finau (-15), Patrick Cantlay (-15), Rory Sabbatini (-14), Jon Rahm (-13)
What it means: It’s been a disappointing season so far for Thomas (at least by his lofty standards). He hasn’t won since last year’s WGC-Bridgestone and owns just one top-10 finish since missing seven weeks – including the PGA – with a wrist injury, while slipping to 10th in the world rankings. Yet, all of that seemed like a distant memory Saturday as Thomas hit the ball unbelievably en route to a dazzling 11-under 61. Suddenly firmly in the driver’s seat, Thomas takes a six-shot cushion into the final round, where a victory would give him a win in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event for the sixth straight year.
Round of the day: Thomas caught fire early with five straight birdies to begin his round and never cooled off. He drained an 11-footer for birdie at the par-3 eighth and turned in 5 under before hitting his second shot at the par-5 10th to 3 feet and making eagle. After a 22-foot birdie conversion at the par-5 14th, Thomas holed out from 180 yards for eagle at No. 16, and then added a birdie at the par-3 17th for good measure to break the course record – set just a day earlier by Hideki Matsuyama – by two shots.
Best of the rest: Gary Woodland carded eight birdies against no bogeys to shoot 64 and rocket 40 spots up the leaderboard to T-18. Wyndham Clark had a 65, though at No. 68 in FedExCup points entering the week is still only projected to rise to 56th. Jon Rahm is solo fifth after shooting 66, but he’s eight back of Thomas and projected to fall a spot to sixth in points.
Biggest disappointments: Playing alongside Woods, Dustin Johnson only managed an even-par 72 as he’s now failed to break 70 this week. He’s staring a seventh straight finish of T-20 or worse in the face. And Matsuyama, the 36-hole leader, is now 10 shots back of the lead after a third-round 73.
Main storylines entering Sunday: Can Woods make it back to East Lake? After a third-round 67, he’s 7 under and within striking distance (four shots) of a top-11 finish, which he likely needs to crack the top 30 in points. Who else will move inside the top 30 and punch their tickets to the Tour Championship? Sabbatini, Matsuyama and Lucas Glover are currently in position to do so. And who will earn the right to start next week’s playoff finale at 10 under? If Thomas can hold on for the win, he’d most likely be the guy – there are a few scenarios that could keep a winning JT from the top spot, though only Rory McIlroy finishing in a three-way tie for second or better is realistic.
Shot of the day: Expect anything different?
Quote of the day: “If a golf course is soft, we're just going to tear it apart. They just haven't figured out yet that long just means nothing to us. You can't build it long enough.” – Adam Scott