Late birdies let Justin Thomas keep slim lead at Sherwood

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Justin Thomas hits from bunker to the second green during the third round of the Zozo Championship golf tournament Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Justin Thomas wasn't playing poorly. It only felt that way Saturday at the Zozo Championship at Sherwood, where being a few shots under par means losing ground. He was 3 under and already had lost the lead he had at the start.

The final hour changed everything — his score, his position, even his outlook.

Thomas got one good break, made two good birdie putts and wound up with a 5-under 67 that gave him a one-shot lead over Jon Rahm going into the final round.

“Didn't have my best stuff by any means, but to shoot a round like that is huge on a course like this," Thomas said. “Usually I'm grinding to shoot a 1-, 2-, 3-under. Here at Sherwood, the scores are very low and you need to be able to — crazy as it is — shoot 5 under to keep pace.”

He got there with an 8-foot par putt on the 15th, a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th after his tee shot nearly went into a creek and he regained the lead with a 30-foot birdie putt up the slope on the par-3 17th.

“Great to give myself a little bit of momentum and cap off what I felt like was a pretty average day.”

It was anything but average for Rahm. He was 5 under through five holes and saved par at the end for a 63 that left him one shot behind. Lanto Griffin, who had the lead until bogeys on two of his last four holes, was another shot behind.

“Tee to green was pretty much the same. Maybe just a little bit better, but I made the putts, which always helps, right?” Rahm said. “Making the putt on 1 and 2 ... freed me up a little bit. Got a really, really good round going early on.”