SEOUL (Reuters) – Justin Thomas refused to be thrown off his game by a double bogey midway through the third round of the $9.25 million CJ Cup in South Korea on Saturday, carding a battling 70 to set the pace with Scott Brown at the Nine Bridges course on Jeju island.
FedExCup champion Thomas coped much better with the blustery conditions and undulating greens than he did on Friday when he posted a two-over 74 and will go into the final round of the PGA Tour’s maiden regular season event in Korea full of confidence.
After hitting just over 50 percent of the fairways on Friday, Thomas, who won his first major at the PGA Championship in August, was solid with the driver in the third round, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and notching birdies at all four par-fives.
Despite dropping two shots at the eighth and another at the 10, Thomas hit back quickly each time, picking up strokes at the ninth, 11th and 12th holes.
With gusty conditions expected again for Sunday’s final round, Thomas said keeping it tight was key.
“It’s going to be tough but everyone has to play in it,” he said in a televised interview. “Really try to make as many pars as possible.”
Brown, whose only win on the PGA Tour came at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open, let his concentration slip after the turn with two straight bogeys on 10 and 11, but found his rhythm again down the closing stretch to grab birdies at the 15th and 18th.
Anirban Lahiri (69) and Marc Leishman (71) are tied for third on seven-under, with home hope Kim Whee three shots behind the leaders after a 72. Kim is joined in fifth place by Cameron Smith (73) and 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover (74).
Another South Korean, An Byeong-hun, carded a day’s best 67 to move into contention on five-under on a difficult day when only five of the 77 players out on the course shot below 70.
Joint overnight leader Luke List dropped back to eighth with a four-over 76 while bogeys at 16 and 17 ruined the scorecard of Jason Day, who was cruising along at three-under for the day before he hit trouble. Day shot a 71 and is six shots back on three under.
(Reporting by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)