NORTON, Mass. – The PGA Tour’s run of great weather came to a soggy, chilly end on Sunday as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey slowly made their way over New England, softening TPC Boston and leaving it vulnerable to the 79 players who made the cut at the Dell Technologies Championship.
The wind that swirled Friday was gone, and the greens that were firm and fast on Saturday were more receptive to approach shots. It may not have made for a fun walk, but the conditions were perfect for scoring and Justin Thomas was not shy about getting his share of birdies.
The 24-year-old winner of the PGA Championship, and three other events this season, made eight circles on his card and shot a bogey-free 63.
The American leads at 12 under with Australia’s Marc Leishman, who shot a bogey-free 65. They will be paired together in the final group on Monday and will start with a one-shot lead over England’s Paul Casey, who shot 67, and a two-shot lead over Jordan Spieth, who shot 66. Grayson Murray (67) and Adam Hadwin (68) also go into the final round at 10 under, two shots behind the leaders.
“It was a great day. I just felt I had total control of my game,” Thomas said. “I drove it beautifully. I hit my irons really well and my short game was good if I needed it.”
Thomas was also lights out on the greens. Needing his flat stick just 26 times, Thomas ranked first in the field Sunday in strokes gained: putting (+3.424). Combine that with hitting 16 of 18 greens in regulation, and you get a dominating performance.
“It’s crazy to think I did that and parred all the par 5s. I played them even par,” Thomas said. “But like I said, I’m obviously extremely pleased and put myself in a great position to win the tournament.”
Playing alongside Thomas, Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 player and the winner of last week’s Northern Trust, shot 66. He goes into the final round at 9 under.
“Today the golf course played long because the ball just wasn’t going anywhere,” Johnson said. “On the first side, I felt like I played just as well as Justin, but he shot 4 under on the front and I shot 1 under. I just didn’t hole any putts, and I was hitting good ones.”
Spieth echoed Johnson when he spoke with the media.
“Yesterday I hit 3-wood, 5-iron into 18,” he said. “Today it was driver, 3-wood. That will tell you right there. It was a different course, for sure.”
However, that different course did not suit Jon Rahm, the leader coming into the third round. He was the only golfer who finished tied for 14th or better who failed to break par. Rahm’s even-par 71 had four birdies and four bogeys.
“I will be a little bit frustrated for a while, because it always is bad when you’re making good swings, and things don’t happen,” Rahm said. “But I probably get to the hotel room, lay down for a little bit and realize the fact that I’m still three shots back.”
Looking ahead to Monday’s final round, Leishman thinks that contenders will need to keep the birdies coming.
“I’m at 12 (under), I would think you would have to get to at least 16. Fifteen or 16 (under),” he said.
Spieth, the winner of three major championships and the 2015 FedEx Cup, agreed.
“It’s going to be a throw down tomorrow,” he said. “It’s going to be a completely different style of golf than we saw last week on Sunday.”