PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Last year, Justin Thomas missed the cut at the Honda Classic but came back to the course anyway to congratulate his South Florida neighbor and good friend Rickie Fowler when he won the tournament.
Now their roles could be reversed.
Thomas, who shot 65 Saturday to get within one stroke of leader Luke List with one round to go at PGA National, just has to deliver.
“It would mean a lot,” Thomas said of the prospect of winning so close to home. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament. It would mean more the fact of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, and how strong of a field it is, difficult of a golf course.
“Half of my wins or a decent amount of my wins have been on easier golf courses, you could say, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”
Saturday, Thomas certainly played like someone capable of winning on one of the toughest tracks on the PGA Tour.
Thomas, the tour’s reigning Player of the Year off a season in which he won five times, ripped off four birdies over his final nine holes, including on the difficult 15th and 17th, and made just one bogey on the afternoon.
“To play the Bear Trap two under was stealing, I felt like,” he said of Nos. 15 through 17. “I felt like if I parred those holes in, I would have a great chance.”
That trio of holes ranks second, sixth and third in terms of difficulty this week. Thomas’ back-nine 31 was the low score of the week on the more difficult side of PGA National as well.
It’s also not the first time he has played well here.
Two years ago, Thomas tied for third in the event with four rounds in the 60s. He missed the cut a year ago but only by a stroke.
“It really is just how you're playing,” said Thomas, who has finished no worse than 17th in his last three starts, and last week tied for ninth at Riviera. “I'm playing well right now, so that makes this golf course a lot easier when you're playing well.”
And if he plays well enough on Sunday, you can bet Fowler will be there to congratulate him.