Tournament of Champions 2017: Saturday Leaderboard Scores and Highlights

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2017

Justin Thomas tips his cap after making his birdie putt on the 17th green during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Matt York/Associated Press

Justin Thomas fired his third straight 67 on Saturday to take a two-shot lead at the 2017 Tournament of Champions with a 54-hole score of 18 under par.

Thomas started the day tied with Ryan Moore for the lead but was able to create separation thanks to an eagle on No. 14.

While Thomas feels good about his standing, there is heat coming from Hideki Matsuyama.

The 24-year-old, who shot a terrific 66 on Saturday, sits two shots off the pace. He's been dazzling, with two wins and a second-place finish in three tournaments early this season, and is looking to add another title to his resume Sunday.

Here's a look at the leaderboard after Saturday's action in Hawaii:

The third round looked set to end with another tie atop the leaderboard, similar to Friday, until this terrific putt from Thomas on No. 14, via the PGA Tour:

Thomas wasn't as crisp as he was Friday, when he hit every green in regulation, but the Kentucky native hit a solid 83.3 percent of his greens Saturday to give himself plenty of chances to succeed with the putter.

Coming into the third round, Thomas was the surprising leader in birdies over the past three seasons, per the PGA Tour:

Jordan Spieth has carried the torch for young American golfers for the past two years, but Thomas, who's also only 23 years old, seems poised for a big breakout season.

Thomas will have to keep up his pace Sunday if he wants to win the Tournament of Champions.

Matsuyama had his best round of the tournament with a 66, which tied William McGirt for the lowest score of the day.

Everything seems to be working for Matsuyama. He hit his driver with 80 percent accuracy, reached the green in regulation 83 percent of the time and gained 1.5 strokes with his putter in the third round, per the PGA Tour's official website.

There were times when Matsuyama didn't even have to get the putter out to find the hole, as the PGA Tour showed:

As good as Matsuyama has been, Justin Ray of Golf Channel found a reason to believe this may not be his week:

Thomas finished three shots ahead of Matsuyama at the CIMB Classic in October, and he'll hope history repeats itself as he attempts to pick up his second win of the young season Sunday.

Behind Thomas and Matsuyama is a three-way tie for third place featuring Moore, McGirt and Jimmy Walker.

McGirt has gotten better with each round, going from a 70 on Thursday to a 69 on Friday to a 66 on Saturday. He had good splits in the third round, with three birdies on the front nine and four on the back nine.

Spieth has been unable to build any momentum. He sits in 19th place at eight under par thanks to a 70 in the third round, though he did have one of the day's best shots on No. 9.

The PGA Tour shared the replay:

Dustin Johnson has fared better at 11 under par, but neither player figures to play a role in the outcome Sunday, barring an epic collapse by several golfers.

This has been Thomas' tournament for most of the way. He has been the most consistent player through 54 holes and has the inside track as he tries to secure another title.

Matsuyama has been the hottest golfer on the planet for the last three months and is hot on Thomas' trail. Both players are operating at the height of their powers, making for a terrific final pairing Sunday.

 

Post-Round Reaction

Thomas had some mixed feelings about his effort on Saturday. 

"I'm definitely not disappointed with today, but I left a lot out there," he said, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

Matsuyama offered high praise for Thomas heading into the final round, while also saying what he has to do to earn the victory. 

"Just doesn't have any weaknesses at all in his game," Matsuyama said, per the AP. "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."