BMW Championship 2019: Justin Thomas Surges into Lead with Course-Record 61

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2019

MEDINAH, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 17: Justin Thomas of the United States celebrates after his eagle on the 16th hole during the third round of the BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club No. 3 on August 17, 2019 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Justin Thomas soared to the top of the leaderboard at the 2019 BMW Championship on Saturday and he did so in record-setting fashion.

Thomas fired off a course-record 61 in Saturday's third round, giving him a six-stroke lead over Tony Finau at the year's second FedEx Cup event. After playing the first two rounds at 10 under, Thomas began his round with five straight birdies and did not look back until he'd completed one of the best rounds of the 2019 PGA season.

None of Thomas' stats were particular outliers. He hit only 57.1 percent of his fairways and 14 of 18 fairways. The PGA's strokes gained metric only says he gained 1.74 strokes on the round, though he did knock down four birdie putts outside 10 feet.

Thomas' saving grace on the back nine were a pair of eagles set up by sensational approaches. He knocked down a three-foot tap-in after hitting a 259-yard approach near the pin on the par-five 10th, then holed out from 180 yards on No. 16.

Justin Ray @JustinRayGolf

Most rounds of 62 or lower on @PGATour last 5 seasons: 1. @JustinThomas34 - 7 T-2. 6 players with 4 apiece

On the flip side, 36-hole leader Hideki Matsuyama watched himself fall out of contention with an ugly 73—a score 10 strokes worse than his 63 from Friday. Matsuyama struggled throughout on the greens, losing 1.72 strokes according to the PGA. He also only hit two-thirds of his greens in regulation while carding three bogeys against just two birdies.

While the course played low for most of the field, no one on the leaderboard came close to matching Thomas' pace. The second-best score of the round was Gary Woodland's eight-under 64, but he was a combined one under through the first two rounds. Wydham Clark, who shot 65, was likewise held back by a poor first two rounds and sits at nine under overall.

Tiger Woods won't find himself in contention either, but will be building on one of his strongest rounds in recent memory after shooting 67. Woods played long off the tee and putted well in a bogey-free round but probably left a stroke or two on the course with his iron play.

Tiger will need to shoot another strong round to qualify for the Tour Championship. He is currently projected to be in 40th place in the FedEx Cup standings. Only golfers qualify for the season finale. 

"I felt good," Woods told reporters after the round. "Basically, the only difference between today and last couple of days I was able to clean up the card. I didn't have any stupid mistakes where I made bogey from bad spots or from easy spots. I did the little things that was able to keep the momentum going and made a couple putts here and there.

"At least, I've got a shot at it."

Thomas is projected to move into first place if his lead holds on Sunday, with Brooks Koepka moving back to second and Patrick Reed sliding back to third. Cantlay and Rory McIlroy round out the projected top five.

McIlroy is in a tie for 13th place after shooting two under.