Thomas closer to No. 1 ranking

LOS ANGELES • If world No. 2 Justin Thomas needed motivation to win the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, the chance to usurp Dustin Johnson at the top of golf's rankings for the first time will surely act as an extra incentive.

The PGA Championship winner won twice on Saturday to set up a semi-final against two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson at the Austin Country Club in Texas and move within one triumph from the world No. 1 ranking.

Fellow American Johnson has held the No. 1 spot since surpassing Australian Jason Day last February.

"I just hope it happens tomorrow," Thomas said. "I've never experienced it and I don't know what's going to come with it, but I'm just worried about trying to beat Bubba Watson."

"My confidence level is just higher," he added when asked about his red-hot form.

"I know I have the game to play at the top of the top, but it's just been a lot of hard work and I'm just trying to ride this hot streak as long as I can."

Thomas routed South Korean Kim Si Woo 6 and 5 in the round-of-16 and saw off compatriot Kyle Stanley 2 and 1 in the quarter-finals. The other semi-final will be between Swede Alex Noren and American Kevin Kisner.

"All I can do is go play the best I can," Thomas said. "(Bubba) has been showing some really good form. He's a really great player. I have to hope he does not have a hot day."

Watson, seeded 35th, edged out Brian Harman 2 and 1 in the round-of-16 and ousted Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat 5 and 3 in the quarter-finals.

With the start of the Masters looming on April 5 at Augusta National, Thomas could join Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth in reaching world No. 1 before the age of 25.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2018, with the headline 'Thomas closer to No. 1 ranking'. Print Edition | Subscribe