Justin Thomas’ playoff aspirations have a heartbeat through 54 holes of the 2023 Wyndham Championship. Entering the week on life support and in need of a solo 18th-place finish or better, the 30-year-old has positioned himself to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs with a quality showing during the final round in Greensboro, North Carolina. When Thomas stepped off the 18th green Saturday at Sedgefield Country Club after a 4-under 66, he found himself in a share for ninth place at 9 under on the leaderboard.
“It’s nerve wracking, but it’s a different kind of nerves,” said Thomas. “I mean, it’s a lot harder than trying to win a golf tournament, in my opinion. I think when you’re trying to win a tournament you’re there, and if you don’t win it’s a bummer, but you still had a great week kind of thing. If I just don’t get it done for what I need to get done this week, then it sucks and my year’s over.
“But, you know, fortunately for me, I’ve been in some tough situations before with majors, trying to win tournaments and team events where I feel like I’ve had a lot of pressure on me. Hopefully I’ll be able to, you know, kind of use some of those past experiences for tomorrow if I’m feeling any of it.”
Finishing his second round strong, Thomas started Saturday in the same brevity with three birdies in a row from Nos. 3-5. Ascending the leaderboard with pace, the 15-time PGA Tour winner looked to add more on the accessible outward nine. A missed birdie bid from inside 6 feet on the par-4 8th halted momentum before a dropped shot on the following hole saw Thomas turn in 2 under.
Thomas kept his head after not being granted temporary immovable object (TIO) relief on the 9th and went to the back side with work to be done as he was projected outside the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings. He tacked on a birdie on the 13th to get to 8 under, but it may be a par save he looks back on as a key moment in his round (and season).
Losing his tee shot left on the par-5 15th and needing to take a penalty stroke, Thomas’ third into the second-easiest hole on the course would later find the surface and set up a two-putt par. A bogey-6 would have been fatal, and the two-time major champ parlayed a his par into one last birdie two holes later.
A bogey-free back nine 33 put a bow on a stellar Saturday and Thomas’ second straight round in the mid 60s. More of the same will need to be in store come Sunday if Thomas is to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Projected 70th in the FedEx Cup standings at the conclusion of his round, Thomas has since drifted to 71st with championship contenders Lucas Glover and Billy Horschel making moves. His postseason fate may be held in the hands of someone else, but his best course of action for the final round remains simple: play well.
“I had great control of the ball [today],” said Thomas. “I didn’t drive it as well as I would have liked on the back nine. You know, when I got out of position, I feel like I did a great job of keeping it underneath the hole in a great spot to get it up and down, which I feel like I do well when I’m playing well. I mean, I feel like I am. You know, I’m excited for tomorrow to be a cool opportunity and just try to go play as well as I can and see how many birdies we can make.”