JEJU, South Korea: Justin Thomas saw a three-stroke advantage disappear in a crazy final-hole swing Saturday as Danny Lee grabbed a share of the lead at the US PGA Tour’s CJ Cup on Jeju Island, South Korea.
The world number five stood on the tee at the long par-five 18th on 16-under par with a three-shot cushion over Lee after a wind-blown round.
But the American, who won the inaugural CJ Cup two years ago, splashed his second shot into the water surrounding the island green for the second time in three rounds this week, leading to a bogey six and a round of 70.
Korean-born New Zealander Lee found the putting surface safely with his second shot, albeit around 60 feet from the flag.
Lee struck his long putt up and over a large ridge and watched incredulously as it found the cup for a remarkable eagle to reach 15-under par and a share of the lead after a grinding, third-round 68.
“As for that putt, frankly I wasn’t aiming for the hole,” admitted Lee.
“I was just trying to get the ball to roll down the slope as slowly as possible but it kept going.”
Thomas took the positives from his round despite the setback at the last.
“It’s not too frustrating since I’m tied for the lead,” said Thomas, who had shot 63 on Friday to grab the lead.
“It would be one thing if I lost six or seven shots today, but I feel pretty comfortable when I have a chance to win the tournament.
“Obviously Danny’s playing well, a lot of guys are playing well, so I need to go out and play well tomorrow.”
Thomas, who led playing partners Lee and South Korea’s An Byeong-hun at the start of the round by two shots, had looked to be running away with the tournament when Lee had a double bogey at the 10th and An followed with a disastrous triple-bogey seven at the next hole.
Lee recovered to play his last eight holes in four-under and reel in Thomas, who was sporting an ungolfing-like “hoodie” to protect against the chilly wind.
But An also found a watery grave at the last for a double-bogey to add to his earlier triple as he tumbled five shots back of the leading pair.
“It was OK today apart from the two holes, I guess,” said a despondent An.
“It was really disappointing to make the triple there, but I bounced back with a couple birdies. Overall, those two holes just destroyed my day.”
In third on his own, three shots behind the leaders is Australia’s Cameron Smith who had a 68 to reach 12-under for the tournament.
A shot further back are former world number one Jordan Spieth who battled to a two-under 70 after bogeying his two opening holes, and young American Wyndham Clark who carded a fine 67.
Before the third round started world number one and defending champion Brooks Koepka withdrew with a recurrence of a long-standing knee injury.
The American had struggled to a three over 75 Friday and was already out of contention.
The lowest score of the day was shared by young star Collin Morikawa and US Open champions Gary Woodland, who both carded fine seven-under par 65s. - AFP