Exciting times lie ahead, because Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm have positioned themselves for a showdown on Sunday at ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD
Among the birdie barrages on Saturday, it was the second and third placed players in the world who made their way up, with Rahm setting the pace and Thomas coming home with a wet sail.
Rahm set Sherwood on fire with a crackling bogey-free 9-under-63 to switch to 18-under. Thomas opted for a 5-under-67 with birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to ensure he took the lead at 19-under.
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The American Thomas found a way to score points from the tee in the greens despite some inaccuracies.
“It was a good fight that lasted well. I felt like I definitely didn’t play as well as I did in the first two days or definitely not had my best stuff, but to do a lap like this in a course like this is huge, ”said the former FedExCup champion .
The Spaniard Rahm hit every fairway in the round and only needed 25 putts. It was a welcome change from the first two rounds, where he required 30 putts each day and lost strokes on the field. Well, the opening round and a half, to be fair.
Rahm was five under on his last eight holes on Friday, which means he was under 14 over his last 26 holes. On Saturday he was on his round through three holes after three birdies and an eagle five under and turned 30 before making three more on the back.
“You started getting in, that’s it. If we count Vegas, my putter was absolutely cold for the last five and a half laps and didn’t do anything, ”said Rahm.
“It was that 20-foot eagle on Friday 11th that I did that got me a bit free, and I did a few more putts. Then today … one fell and it’s okay, it’s possible to putts and just move on. ”
Now the couple shakes off as the likely crowned champion, but they both know it won’t be an easy scenario. Birdies rain down on Sherwood like arrows in a Robin Hood movie, lest these two aggressive players be surprised.
Plus, there are plenty of players behind them who feel like they don’t lose anything, so they aim for every porthole.
Lanto Griffin is 17-under while Patrick Cantlay, Ryan Palmer and Sebastian Munoz are only three off the lead at 16-under. Six players – Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Brian Harman, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Scottie Scheffler and Dylan Frittelli – share seventh place with just four points.
Griffin will play with the front runners on Sunday and he’s enjoying the chance. Last season’s Vivint Houston Open champion is preparing to defend his title in just a few weeks, hoping to add another trophy to his cabinet beforehand.
“I’ll have to play really well tomorrow, I know that. But it’s fun. I’ve dreamed of this, of the position I’ve dreamed of in my entire life, ”said Griffin. “From mini tours to the Korn Ferry Tour to the best players in the world in the last group, it’s great fun.”
Griffin opened his round with four straight birdies and was the leader after a birdie on the 14th hole before a loose tee shot on the 15th par-3 found a penalty area. Even so, he’s ready for a Sunday chase.
“If it’s to your taste, you can sit on a heater and just like I did on the first nine. You’re never really out in a week like this, ”he adds.
Thomas thinks so.
“You can literally fuck every single hole out here … if you play well you can really strive for it,” says Thomas. “I feel like it’s so easy to do five in a row … you just have to be in the right mood for it.”
Rahm said he would not play it safe or back off.
“Like it or not, you have to do it, it’s that simple,” he said of chasing birdies on the par-72 course, which averaged 69.048 over three rounds.
Interestingly, Thomas made a mistake on the back nine this week. He is 14 years old, has 12 birdies and an eagle in holes 10-18, while adding three bogeys to his seven birdies on the front. Cream is on the last nine under 10. Griffin is 14 in the top nine.
So get ready Fireworks are to follow.
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