19 August 2019: The 2017 PGA Champion has been searching for solace for over a year now. But all of that is in the past this morning as Justin Thomas found an extra gear just in time to score a comfortable three-stroke victory over a rampantly ambitious Patrick Cantlay. In taking his first victory since the WGC at Firestone, Thomas will reach East Lake at 10-under with a two-stroke advantage over Cantlay, as the top 30 head into the Tour Championship, chasing a $15mn dollar pot of gold.
Cantlay with a 65 and Hideki Matsuyama with an impressive 63 kept the chase interesting after Thomas opened Sunday with a six-stroke cushion over the field. That advantage was down to two when Cantlay forced four straight birdies from the 7th. Thomas had opened with a bogey on the first and even though he added a couple of birdies on a rather sedate front nine, the bogey at ten dropped him to even for the round, helping the chasing pack scent hope.
But Thomas put paid to those hopes with an iron fist, collecting three birdies in five holes from the 11th to put the contest to bed, more or less. With the FedEx Cup Playoffs affording a cushion to the top ten, next week is going to be an interesting experience for fans and players alike.
Thomas opens next Thursday at 10-under, with Cantlay chasing his tail again at 8-under. Brooks Koepka will start at seven under followed by Patrick Reed at six under and Rory McIlroy at five under.
“I can certainly say a thousand per cent I’ve never slept on a Wednesday lead,” humoured Thomas.
“I truly have no idea what to expect,” said Thomas, grinning sheepishly. “There’s nobody in the history of this sport that has experienced it so nobody knows. I don’t know if it’s going to be weird or it’s going to be different. There are so many variables and questions I have and this and that. If I birdie the first hole what am I at? I don’t know. Do I shoot a score, do I not? Whatever.
“Again, I know that I’m in a lot better position than I was at the start of the week. I just have to be grateful and thankful for that.”