SEOUL • Justin Thomas refused to be thrown off his game by a double bogey midway through the third round of the US$9.25 million (S$12.6 million) CJ Cup in South Korea yesterday, battling to a two-under 70 to set the pace with fellow American Scott Brown at the Nine Bridges course on Jeju Island.
Both men are on nine-under 207. FedExCup champion and world No. 4 Thomas coped much better with the blustery conditions and undulating greens than he did on Friday, when he posted a 74.
He will go into the final round of the United States-based PGA Tour's maiden regular-season event in Korea full of confidence.
After hitting just over 50 per cent of the fairways on Friday, Thomas, who won his first Major at the PGA Championship in August, was solid with the driver in the third round, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and notching birdies at all four par-fives.
Despite dropping two shots at the eighth and another at the 10th, Thomas hit back quickly each time, picking up strokes at the ninth, 11th and 12th holes.
"I know for a fact that I played better today than I did on Thursday when I shot nine under," said Thomas, one of only 10 players in the elite 78-man field to break par.
"It is so hard out here. I've never played in a place where the wind swirls as much as it does here. It was insane."
With gusty conditions expected again for today's final round, the 24-year-old said keeping it tight was key.
"The hardest thing is the putting,' he explained. "We'll hit some putts that look pretty stupid out there and the viewers at home don't understand. You have to be out here and close to know why that's happening."
Brown shot a 71 that felt much lower, he said. "When it's like this, hitting a sand wedge into a green is hard," added the 34-year-old, whose only win on the Tour came at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open.
India's Anirban Lahiri (69) and Australia's Marc Leishman (71) are tied for third on 209, with home hope Kim Whee three shots behind the leaders after a 72.
Kim is joined in fifth place by Cameron Smith (73) and 2009 US Open champion Lucas Glover (74).
Another South Korean, An Byeong Hun, carded the day's best 67 to move into contention on five under, on a difficult day when only five players shot below 70.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
THE CJ CUP
Day 4: StarHub Ch204, 10am