Firestone Country Club isn't a design that requires much creativity or shotmaking, but it can be extremely penal if you're slightly off your game. Justin Thomas has been anything but off at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, especially from the tee and on the greens, and it has earned him a three-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter following rounds of 65, 64 and Saturday's three-under 67.
The early part of Thomas' third round was a bit shaky, even after making birdie at the par-5 second hole to get to 12 under. Bogeys at the third and fifth holes saw him fall back to one over on his round, but he locked in from there, making five birdies on his next nine holes, including a chip-in at the par-3 12th.
"The hard part about this course is that you can get off track pretty quick if you're not playing well," said Thomas, whose 14 under 54-hole total is 13 strokes better than his 72-hole score here a year ago. "That's why with it being a little softer this week you've seen a big variety of scores, because it's soft enough where if you're playing well you can shoot low, but if you're not, you can shoot some pretty high numbers."
A win tomorrow would be the third of the year for Thomas, joining Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson as the only three-time winners this season. It won't be easy knowing who is close behind him on the leader board.
"I need to go out and play well tomorrow because there are a lot of really good players chasing me," he said.
One of them is McIlroy, who fired a bogey-free 67 and put on an incredible driving display that saw him average 357.9 yards off the tee.
"I like to hit driver as much as possible," said McIlroy. "This course allows me to do that, it allows you to be aggressive off the tee and if you do hit it well, nine out of 14 fairways for me today is a really good number. If I can do that tomorrow hopefully I'll have a chance."
The Northern Irishman knows how to get it done at Firestone, having won here in 2014 as part of his three-straight win stretch that included the British Open and PGA Championship. He's looking for his second win of the year, the first having come at Bay Hill.
Poulter had a back-and-forth finish, going bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey-par to finish with an even-par 70. He's tied with McIlroy at 11-under 199, and is also looking for his second victory of the season.
Jason Day is at 10-under 200, while Marc Leishman and Kyle Stanley are at nine-under 201.