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By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 11/07/20 11:22pm
Justin Thomas seized control of the Workday Charity Open and completed 54 holes without a bogey as he cruised into a two-shot lead at Muirfield Village.
Thomas’s accuracy and distance-control were once more in fine order in favourable conditions over the Ohio layout, and a six-under 66 was arguably a poor reunite for his consistent all-round performance.
His second consecutive 66 lifted him to 16 under for the tournament and into a two-stroke lead over Ryder Cup hopeful Viktor Hovland, while over night leader Collin Morikawa went from three ahead to three behind after his title chances took a knock with three bogeys in four holes across the turn.
Thomas opened with three cast-iron pars before finding himself in a spot of bother at the fourth, but he protected his blemish-free record with a seven-foot putt for par and then birdied the next three holes to maneuver smoothly to 13 under.
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The world No 5 acquired another shot at the 11th and missed good chances from 15 feet on all the next two greens before holing from 10 feet for birdie at 14 and two-putting from distance for still another at the par-five 15th.
An exquisite bunker splash-out to a few inches ensured a par at the short 16th, and that he misread an eight-foot putt for birdie on 17 before still another rock-solid par at the past closed out an impressive day’s work from the 27-year-old.
Hovland emerged as Thomas’ closest challenger despite a handful of ragged holes on the rear nine, the exciting young Norwegian opening with a pair of birdies and adding two more at all the par-fives on the outward run before a wayward second to the 10th led to a dropped shot.
He bounced straight back with a birdie at 11 and, after driving the green at the 14th and two-putting for another gain, Hovland completed a clean sweep of par-five birdies at the 15th and then give one back when that he found the trunk bunker at 16 and was not able to complete the up-and-down.
But Hovland again produced a sudden response when he flicked a wedge to a couple of feet at 17 for his eighth birdie of the afternoon, and a battling par at the past completed a 66 which earned him the clubhouse lead until Thomas signed his card 10 minutes later.
Morikawa retained his over night lead in the beginning when that he matched Thomas’ birdies at the fifth and sixth, but last month’s Charles Schwab Challenge runner-up missed a short putt for par at the ninth and found little in the way of short grass as that he dropped further shots at 10 and 12.
He offset a birdie at 15 with still another mistake on the penultimate hole, but he finished on a positive note with a 15-foot putt for birdie at the past which left him just three adrift of Thomas, with Sam Burns (70) and Kevin Streelman (71) back on 11 under.
Ian Poulter remained within striking distance of the best choice, although he can need something special within the final 18 holes after he carded a solid five-birdie 69 – his third straight sub-70 round – which got him to 10 under par alongside Rory Sabbatini and Kevin Streelman.
US Open champion Gary Woodland and fan-favourite Rickie Fowler both earned themselves a good lie-in on Sunday morning, both sauntering round in 66 to close on nine under par and in the top 10.
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