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Thomas puts himself in position to capture Tour Championship should Cantlay and Rahm falter

Chris Vivlamore, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Golf

ATLANTA — Hold on just a minute, says Justin Thomas.

If not in word, in deed.

While it looked for quite a while that the Tour Championship was a two-man race between Patrick Cantlay and Jon Rahm, Thomas was not about to be far on the outside looking in. Thomas shot a third-round 5-under-par 65, tied for the low round of the day, Saturday at East Lake Golf Club. He sits third in the FedEx Cup playoff finale at 15 under, five strokes behind Cantlay and three strokes behind Rahm.

Thomas made three consecutive birdies on the back nine — Nos. 12-14 — to get close to Cantlay and Rahm. However, a bogey at the par-5 18th prevented him from closing the gap more than did. The blemish came after he missed the fairway, the third straight miss of the short grass to finish the round.

“I wasn’t worried about it,” Thomas said of trying to close the gap. “The thing that I have going for me is Jon has been playing just ridiculously good golf for a really long time, and he’s shown he’s going to keep playing well, and Patrick has been playing really well.

“But I don’t feel like those guys have had a bad round yet. They continue to play well. Obviously, I can’t bank on them having a bad day. I just have to keep plugging along and doing my job.”

Thomas started the day in fourth place after two consecutive days of 67s. He pulled past playing partner Bryson DeChambeau, who shot 2 over on the day. He has a two-shot lead over Kevin Na.

The deficit certainly isn’t insurmountable. But Thomas knows he can do only so much the way Cantlay and Rahm have played this week.

 

“I can’t do anything about what they are doing, and for my sake, they have unfortunately played some really good golf and in this format, starting ahead and them playing good golf, it’s tough to catch,” Thomas said. “I gained some shots on the leaders today, and that’s what’s most important.”

Behind Thomas and Na are Billy Horschel and Abraham Ancer, tied for fifth at 10 under par.

Thomas entered the staggered-start tournament in sixth place and 4 under par. He had six strokes to make up on Cantlay and after three rounds he made up one shot to trail by five.

Thomas certainly is capable. He tied for the lead after the first round of the playoff-opening Northern Trust with an 8-under 63. There is a good history at East Lake for Thomas. He won the FedEx Cup in 2017 and finished third in 2019 and second in 2020.

Going into the final round Sunday, Cantlay and Rahm certainly appear headed for a final duel. But Thomas lurking.

“It’s pretty cool that a whole year race technically is ending tomorrow, and not that we separate ourselves a lot because J.T. had a good round today, but if we keep playing the way we have, unless somebody posts a really low score out there, hopefully it will be a good show down on the back nine with me and Patrick,” Rahm said.

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