Justin Thomas had a horrible, horrible, no good, very dangerous 2023.
However he has an opportunity to get his new 12 months off to a storybook begin.
On a relaxed, drizzly Saturday in La Quinta, in his first-ever aggressive spherical on the Stadium Course at PGA West, Thomas posted a blistering 11-under 61 to place himself within the hunt on the 2024 American Specific.
He’ll begin Sunday’s last spherical in third place place, 4 strokes off the tempo set by College of Alabama sophomore Nick Dunlap, who shot a 60-a file low for an newbie in a Tour event-at La Quinta Nation Membership, one of many two different programs within the Amex rota.
“Clearly, not enjoying in competitors shortly, you by no means now the way it’s going to be,” Thomas mentioned. “However I felt snug at La Quinta from the beginning, and began making birdies.”
The primary of these third-round birdies got here early, on the 2nd gap, and a barrage of them adopted, together with six in a row on the again 9, highlighted by a close to ace on the par-3 thirteenth, the place Thomas’ 7-iron lipped out and settled inches from the cup.
“That’s so merciless,” Thomas mentioned, watching the video replay of the virtually hole-in-one.
Thomas’ glowing play this week stands in marked distinction together with his efficiency all through a lot of the 2022-2023 season, a lackluster marketing campaign by which he did not notch a win and fell wanting the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the primary time.
In assessing his 12 months, nobody was extra important of Thomas than Thomas, as when he mocked himself on social media in December for falling quick on eight of the 9 objectives he’d set for the season. No main championship wins. No cluster of top-10 finishes. Even the purpose he did obtain — enjoying within the Ryder Cup — got here by advantage of a captain’s decide and was additional tempered by the truth that Group USA misplaced.
New 12 months, although, new Thomas. After exhibiting indicators of life in late 2023, with fifth and Third-place finishes on the Fortinet Championship and the Hero World Problem, respectively, Thomas is again to enjoying at his personal lofty commonplace. Requested on Saturday what accounted for his resurgence, Thomas credited a mixture of psychological and bodily components. His state of mind is healthier, he mentioned, however so is his kind.
“I believe with one can typically come the opposite,” he mentioned.
Thomas’ presence close to the highest of the leaderboard this weekend appears solely becoming, as he was making headlines in La Quinta earlier than the match even started. Coincidentally, these tales additionally concerned Burns, who, as fee for a shedding school soccer wager he made with Thomas, confirmed up within the desert with the letters RTR etched into his hair. These letters stand for Roll Tide Roll, a rallying cry for the College of Alabama, the place Thomas performed collegiate golf.
Burns, who performed at ‘Bama rival LSU, will likely be within the last group with Dunlap on Sunday, with one other Alabaman trailing shut behind.
“I simply obtained to exit tomorrow and make numerous birdie and capitalize,” Thomas mentioned. “And hopefully simply get inside placing distance going into the again 9.”