PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – That three-hole stretch late on PGA National’s back nine earned the nickname “The Bear Trap” by intimidating even the world’s best players.
Justin Thomas conquered it to earn a spot in the final group at The Honda Classic. He birdied the back nine’s two water-lined par-3s, Nos. 15 and 17, to shoot 65. He’s one shot behind 54-hole leader Luke List, a 33-year-old who’s seeking his first PGA TOUR win.
Thomas is nearly a decade younger, but already owns seven victories and is the reigning FedExCup champion. Thomas’ 65 matched Alex Noren for the low round of the week.
“To play the Bear trap in 2 under was stealing, I felt like,” said Thomas, who hit 6-iron on both holes before making birdie putts of approximately 15 feet. There were only four birdies on No. 15 Saturday and only 11 birdies on the 17th.
Justin Thomas' sensational birdie on No. 17 at Honda
Thomas, who’s No. 9 in the FedExCup, could take over the lead with a win. He already owns one win this season, at the CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES. That’s not the only reason he’s hoping for a victory. Winning at the notoriously-tough PGA National would be a point of pride.
“Half of my wins, or a decent amount of my wins, have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this,” he said.
The par-70 Champion Course has played to a 72.2 scoring average this week, which would rank it as the toughest this season if the scoring holds. There’s only 10 players under par after 54 holes.
List is one shot ahead of Thomas and Webb Simpson, while Tommy Fleetwood and List’s former roommate, Jamie Lovemark, are two shots back.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Tommy Fleetwood's 140-yard bucket is the Shot of the Day
Rory McIlroy salvaged a 73 after being 6 over on his first eight holes. McIlroy won here in 2012 and was in a playoff in 2014, but this was his eighth consecutive over-par round at PGA National. He’s 22 over in those eight rounds.
Tiger Woods hit a season-high nine fairways and 13 greens en route to his first sub-70 round of the season. Woods, who’s even par, trails List by seven shots. On Saturday’s first 11 holes, he hit 10 approach shots within 25 feet of the hole. “It could have been even lower,” Woods said. His Sunday playing partner will be Sam Burns, a 21-year-old Web.com Tour player. Burns turned pro last year after his sophomore season at LSU. He was the 2017 Nicklaus Award winner as the top player in college golf. Click here for more on his round.
Webb Simpson will start the final round one shot off the lead as he seeks his first victory since 2013. Last season, Simpson qualified for the TOUR Championship for the first time in four years. He shot a bogey-free 66 on Saturday, making birdies on 3, 8, 9 and 13.
Alex Noren matched Thomas for the low round of the tournament with a 65 on Saturday. Noren, who lost a playoff to Jason Day at the Farmers Insurance Open, will start the final round within three shots of the lead after making eagle on 18. Noren’s 65 was a 10-shot improvement over his second round.
CALL OF THE DAY
QUOTABLESMy responsibility tomorrow is to go out there and put something in the red and post a numberI don’t want to watch myself.
Low round – Thomas and Noren both fired 65 on Saturday. Those are the lowest rounds this week.
Hardest hole – The 479-yard, par-4 sixth hole played to a 4.46 scoring average Saturday. There were only two birdies.
Easiest hole – The 556-yard, par-5 18th played to a 4.7 scoring average. Noren made one of three eagles on the hole. There were 24 birdies, as well.