Justin Thomas ties his own course record in Mexico, brings good vibes to Honda

Feb 23, 2019; Mexico City, MEX; Justin Thomas plays his second shot onto the first green during the third round of the WGC - Mexico Championship golf tournament at Club de Golf Chapultepec. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports

Justin Thomas ties his own course record in Mexico, brings good vibes to Honda

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Justin Thomas ties his own course record in Mexico, brings good vibes to Honda

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MEXICO CITY – Justin Thomas had the ideal tune-up for his title defense in next week’s Honda Classic.

Without a 5 on his card, Thomas tied his own course record with a 9-under-par 62 in Sunday’s final round of the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec. After driving within 49 yards of the green on the 376-yard, uphill ninth – he started his round on the 10th – Thomas chipped to 14 feet but missed the record-breaker.

“I hit a really good putt,” said Thomas, who has nine PGA Tour titles, including the 2017 PGA Championship. “I would have loved to have broken the record, but you can never be disappointed with a 62.”

Thomas has a fondness for the course that rests 7,800 feet above sea level. Last year, he shot 62 in the third round before losing in a playoff to Phil Mickelson the following day. Thomas had no shot of winning Sunday – he started the final round 16 shots behind the leader – but he moved up into the top 10 and gained some momentum heading into next week.

Thomas reeled off four consecutive birdies to begin the round and added another at the 15th. After a bogey on the 17th, he again made four consecutive birdies around the turn. As he stepped to the tee on the fourth hole, he said he was eyeing a 59. But he made just one final birdie, on the sixth.

“To be honest, this might sound bad, but I just didn’t really care,” Thomas said of his approach to the final round. “I was hitting driver everywhere. I drove it well yesterday, so it’s not like I was driving it bad. I felt like I was driving it well enough to where I could create a significant advantage for myself.”

One thing in his favor was being grouped with Webb Simpson and his caddie Paul Tesori. The two were with Thomas last year when he shot 62.

“I’ve had some good vibes, so hopefully I’ll get paired with them next week,” Thomas said. “Hopefully I can carry this into next week. Earlier this week, I just was not in a very good place mentally. I don’t know, I couldn’t get focused. I just was very irritable.”

It’s been hit or miss for Thomas on the Champion Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He missed the cut the first time he played, in 2015, and missed the cut in 2017. But he tied for third in 2016 and last year shot 67-72-65-68 and made a birdie on the first playoff hole to defeat Luke List.

“I don’t think the course necessarily suits anybody’s game, you just have to be playing well,” Thomas said. “I think that’s why I went missed cut, third, missed cut, win. So, I’m really hoping that trend doesn’t continue for this year.

“I’ve been playing well, so it’s a golf course I know the holes that you can kind of pick your spots and holes where you just kind of need to swallow your pride a little bit and try to make par. And you always or at least you usually seem to get at least one or two really windy days, where par’s a really good score around there. You just kind have to take it for what it gives you.”

Thomas, reigning U.S. Open and PGA Championship champion Brooks Koepka and 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open winner Rickie Fowler top the marquee for the Honda Classic.

Another star attraction is the Bear Trap, named affectionately for Jack Nicklaus. The Golden Bear redesigned the course in 1990 and delivered a three-hole stretch starting on the 15th which features two difficult par-3s bordering the stout par-4 16th. Each of the three holes is at the mercy of wind and each has water hazards that come into play.

“I feel I’m really, really close to reeling off some wins,” said Thomas, who played in the final group on Sunday in his last two starts before the Mexico Championship. “All I can do is just keep doing the best I can.” Gwk

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