KAPALUA, Hawaii — With one powerful swing, Justin Thomas drove the 14th green and made eagle to take control Saturday in the Tournament of Champions.
Thomas holed the 20-foot eagle putt and closed with a two-putt birdie from just short of the green on the par-5 18th for a third straight 6-under 67. He has a two-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama, who had eight birdies in a round of 66 in the opening PGA Tour event of the year that features only winners from last season.
Thomas, at 18-under 201, had a chance to build even more separation. After his eagle on 14, he smashed a drive that caught the slope on the par-5 15th and rolled to the bottom of the hill, a 348-yard drive that left him only 180 yards to the green. But his shot was a clunker coming out of the short rough. He settled for par.
On the short 16th, he drove within 60 yards of the pin, but his wedge came up well short and he missed from 15 feet. "I'm definitely not disappointed, but I left a lot out there," Thomas said.
Only five players were within five shots of the lead going into the final round (3 p.m., NBC; 5 p.m., Golf Channel).
Matsuyama made three birdies over his last five holes to get into the final group as he goes for his fourth straight victory
"Just doesn't have any weaknesses at all in his game," Matsuyama said. "We've got to go low to be able to catch him."
William McGirt had a bogey-free 66 and was four back, along with Ryan Moore (71) and Jimmy Walker (70).
Brendan Steele shot 67 and was at 13-under 206. Dustin Johnson shot 69 and was in a group seven back. Jordan Spieth had a double bogey and shot 70. He was 10 back.