17 Feb 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
PACIFIC PALISADES — Justin Thomas saw the sun rise and set at Riviera Country Club on Saturday during a long day of golf at the Genesis Open. But as he walked back toward the clubhouse in darkness just before 6 p.m., Thomas found himself in sole possession of the lead heading into what will be another full day of play Sunday.
Thomas finished his second round just before 9 a.m. Saturday after posting a two-round total of 11-under 131, leaving him tied for the lead with Adam Scott.
It wasn’t until 5 p.m. that Thomas hit his first shot of the third round, as the tournament continued to try and play catch up from the delay caused by heavy rains Thursday morning.
The final group of Thomas, Scott and J.B Holmes played just two full holes of the third round before play was stopped for darkness at 5:45 p,m. The third round is scheduled to resume at 6:45 a.m. Sunday, with the goal of completing the tournament by day’s end.
Thomas said his alarm will ring at about 4:15 a.m. so he can prepare himself physically and mentally to hopefully play 34 holes.
“I’m going to need to be patient because I’m playing so many holes,” Thomas said. “Long day, so I need to stay in it emotionally and stay patient and see what we can do. It will be the third straight day of waking up at around 4:15, but I wouldn’t trade place with anyone.”
Thomas’ eagle on the par-5 first hole to open his third round propelled him to the top of the leaderboard, but he’s got plenty of company right behind him. Scott, who made birdie on the first hole late Saturday, is a shot back at 12 under, while Holmes and Patrick Rodgers are both 11 under. In all, a total of 17 players will start Sunday within seven shots of Thomas, including Tiger Woods.
Woods birdied the final hole of his second round early Saturday morning to leave him at 1 under, putting him inside the cut line that turned out to be at even par. Opening his third round on the par-4 10th hole, Woods put together a stretch of golf that created a level of excitement around Riviera that was commonplace when he was dominating the sport in the early to mid-2000s.
Woods knocked his drive on the 10th hole just off the back edge of the green, but then chipped up to 5 feet and converted the birdie putt, his third straight birdie on No. 10 this week.
But that was just the beginning. Woods followed with a 321-yard drive on the par-5 11th hole, his longest drive of the week. His second shot from 250 yards came to rest less than 10 feet from the pin. With a chance for his second eagle in two days, Woods rolled the putt in, dropping him to 3 under.
With momentum building, Woods hit his tee shot on the very tough par-4 12th hole just into the right rough. Undaunted, Woods knocked his approach 21 feet from the pin. With the buzz among fans building, Woods converted the birdie putt, dropping him to 4 under.
After another strong drive on the 13th , Woods had his approach shot land 14 feet from the flagstick. When the putt dropped for another birdie, the roars at Riviera were Augusta-like, and it gave Woods his first 5-under start through four holes since 2003.
The key to the run was a hot putter, something Woods didn’t have during his opening round when he three-putted four times.
“I putted well today, and I hit a lot of good shots,” Woods said. “And I didn’t have four three-putts. That was positive and I got off to a nice roll. Conditions were a little tough in the beginning, which was good for me because the guys weren’t really doing much around the course, so that was positive.”
While Woods didn’t make any birdies over his final three-plus holes, he played very solid golf. His goal is to try and maintain his momentum when he resumes his round early Sunday morning.
Woods said he will likely wake up between 2 and 3 a.m. to begin preparations for the long day ahead.
“It’s going to be cold in the morning, so I will just to get off to a good start,” said Woods, who will be playing his fourth shot on the par-5 17th hole when the round resumes. “I’ve got to get up and down there. Eighteen is not going to be playing short, but I’ve got to get that first hole – it’s like playing a par-4.
“It’s going to be key for me to get through No. 2. I’ve got to do some damage on those holes. It’s going to be a tough day for all of us and one that we’re going to have to fight through.”
Scott will start his morning with a shot from the fairway at the par-4, third hole. After contemplating whether to hit his second shot, Scott decided he had more to lose than to gain by playing on, so he called it a day and will come back fresh and rested Sunday morning to resume his battle to try and catch and pass Thomas.
“There’s so much golf to play,” Scott said. “It’s a great day to get your rhythm early and make a move. Someone will, and if it’s Justin or I, you can kind of separate yourself and hopefully take a bunch of the guys out of the equation. I feel like it’s late in the tournament, but it’s only halfway.”No player in the field entered Saturday’s marathon day of golf with more of a chance to taking control of the event than Jordan Spieth.
After an opening-round 7-under 64, Spieth was just four shots behind Thomas and Scott when he started his second round. He knew if he posted anything close to his first-round total he’d likely be in the lead heading into the final 36 holes.
But even with sunny skies and drier conditions, Spieth only managed to post a second-round 1-under 70, leaving him at 8 under through two rounds. After the round, Spieth pointed toward his lackluster performance around the greens as the reason for his sluggish play.
“It really was chipping,” Spieth said. “I chipped two in (in the first round), and then today I just hit some kind of poor chips at 10, 11, 16, where I had opportunities to get up and down for birdie or par, so those I made yesterday and today I didn’t.
“I told Michael (Geller, his caddie) I actually played a better round than the first round and the score didn’t reflect it, so I feel like I’m about where I should be and progressing in the right direction. Just clean up a little bit around the greens and maybe knock a couple extra putts in.”
Unfortunately for Spieth, just the opposite happened through the four holes he played in his third round. After reaching the par-5, first in two shots, Spieth three-putted for par. He followed that by missing a par putt on No. 2 and failed to convert a great birdie opportunity on the par-3 fourth hole before stopping for the night.
“Hopefully, (I’ll) come out hot out of the gates tomorrow,” Spieth said. “Scoreboard watching doesn’t do a whole lot of good on this golf course, it makes you think so much. So you just try and play the spots and wait for kind of the good numbers to make birdies.”