Jan 8th, 2017
Justin Thomas leads SBS Tournament of Champions
By 2 shots over an in–form Matsuyama
Words: James Greenwood Photography: Getty Images
Justin Thomas is leading the SBS Tournament of Champions with a third straight 67 and has a 2–shot lead over an in–form Hideki Matsuyama.
With an eagle on the par 4 uphill 287–yard 14th, Justin Thomas took a grip on the third day of the SBS at Kapalua in Hawaii.
He nailed a driver to twenty feet, and made the putt for his eagle. "It needs to be something hot to run up there," his caddie told him. "And I just nuked it, and hit it low and just enough to scoot up the ridge", said Thomas.
That was the pivotal moment in a round which finished with Thomas holding a two–shot lead from Hideki Matsuyama, who shot a fine 66.
24-year-old Matsuyama is in the form of his life, and has won four of his last five tournaments, a streak that includes a seven shot victory in Japan. He’s now 6th in the Official World Golf Rankings.
"If I'm near Hideki in the tournament, that's usually a pretty good thing on Sunday," Thomas said. "He's obviously a tremendous player and he's on an unbelievable run here the last five events. I actually had no idea I was the only one to beat him in the last five events, which is absurd, the fact he's won four of his last five. ... But there's a lot of great players out there. I just need to go take care of my job."
With only five players within five shots of the lead going into the final round, and Dustin Johnson and Jason Day seven shots and eight shots back in turn, this really has the look of a two–way shoot out between two players at the top of their games.
"I'm definitely not disappointed with today, but I left a lot out there," Thomas said in his post round interview.
Meanwhile Matsuyama made three birdies over his last five holes, including a chip-in on the 14th hole, to get into the final group as he goes for his fourth straight victory.
"Justin doesn't have any weaknesses at all in his game," Matsuyama said. "He hits it long, has a marvelous short game, putts well, hits the ball well. We've got to go low tomorrow to be able to catch him."
Jordan Speith was another struggler with Johnson and Day, and he ended his round with a three putt for par on the 18th to card a 70, and end his third round 10 shots behind the leader.