World Number Three Justin Thomas will take a three-shot lead into the final day of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after producing a stunning 67 on a day of tougher scoring at Firestone Country Club.
Thomas, who will defend his US PGA Championship title at Bellerive Country Club next week, has a star-studded chasing pack breathing down his neck, with 2014 champion Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter in a tie for second on 11 under.
With the course firming up throughout the afternoon, the scoring average soared on day three but halfway co-leader Thomas seemed unfazed, mixing six birdies with three bogeys on Saturday to get to 14 under par.
Thinking ahead to the final round of the tournament, Thomas said:
“It will be fun. Rory and I have played together a lot. We’ve played together a lot in tournaments, but never in this kind of situation, so it will be different. We’ll both be doing our own thing. I’m sure we’ll chat here and there between shots, but he’s out there doing his thing and I’m out here doing mine.”
McIlroy posted a bogey-free 67, with his birdies coming at the second, ninth and 17th on day three, while Poulter’s 70 was made up of four birdies and four bogeys.
Speaking after his third round, the Irish golfer admitted:
“Best I’ve hit it off the tee, and probably the best I’ve hit it overall. I hit some better wedge shots out there, which was good to see. Wish I could have converted a couple more of the chances, but it sort of all evened out. I holed a couple really nice putts for par in the middle of the back nine, so happy with that. The course is firming up a little bit. The greens are still receptive, but it’s definitely playing a little bit tougher today than it has done the previous two days. (I was) happy with everything.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s final round, the Ulsterman said:
“It’s a great opportunity to test what I’ve been trying to work on this week, test it under the gun on a Sunday when you have a chance to win. I’m excited for it. I think it’s going to be great prep for next week as well, so I’ll obviously be fully engaged to try to win this tournament but knowing that if I play well tomorrow, it puts me in the right frame of mind going into next week as well (for USPGA Championship).”
Major Champion Jason Day was another shot back on ten under after his third-round 69, which included a chip-in birdie at the short 15th.
Marc Leishman and Kyle Stanley were tied for fifth on nine under, one shot ahead of Spain’s Jon Rahm and American Rickie Fowler, who made five birdies and no bogeys.