Thomas one shot behind leader List heading into Honda final round

Even Justin Thomas admits it. While the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year has won seven times in three years on Tour, the fact that two of them have come in Malaysia and two more in Hawaii has left his resume a bit on the light side.

Winning the Honda Classic on Sunday would go a long way to change that.

Thomas shot a tournament-best 31 on the back nine Saturday to complete a round of 5-under 65, leaving him one shot behind leader Luke List and in a second-place tie with 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson heading into the final round at PGA National Resort.

Photos: Live images from the 2018 Honda Classic

Pairings, tee times for Sunday’s Round 4

“It means a lot to win any golf tournament,” Thomas said. “It would mean more (with) the fact of how prestigious this tournament is and the list of winners (of) this event, and how strong a field it is, how difficult a golf course.”

Somewhat lighter, more predictable winds out of the Southeast resulted in 21 rounds in the 60s Saturday, one of which was a 1-under 69 turned in by Tiger Woods. But that performance, which featured three birdies and two bogeys - both of which came on The Bear Trap’s par-3 holes, Nos. 15 and 17 - dropped Woods from four to seven shots off the pace in a tie for 11th place.

Tiger thinks he has a shot at Honda but Sunday rally seems unrealistic

That left Thomas, 24 and a Jupiter resident, in the final pairing Sunday with List, who has yet to win in 104 starts on Tour.

“I’m playing well right now, so that makes this course a lot easier when you’re playing well,” Thomas said. “This is a golf course that you can’t kind of fake your way around.”

Thomas had six birdies in his round, the last two on both of the par-3 holes on the Bear Trap. He holed on from 15 feet on No. 15 and 14 feet on No. 17.

“To play the Bear Trap 2-under was stealing,” he said. “Hit two really good iron shots in there and a great fairway bunker shot to save an up-and-down (par) on No. 16 as well.

“I felt like if I’d parred those holes I would have had a great chance, but making those birdies will definitely give me a better chance.”

List took the lead on his final shot of the day, a 2-foot birdie putt after he had left his second shot in a greenside bunker. He has been the steadiest of the leaders, making only two bogeys and a double-bogey over the first 54 holes.

“It was just a fun day out there,” List said. “I really enjoyed myself and besides the bogey on No. 17, I played really nice golf.”

List, whose best career results were two seconds and third in smaller events last year, acknowledged he’ll have some nerves trying for his first win.

“But for me, I’m getting a lot better understanding of my tendencies, and that means that knowing the less I do and the less I try, I actually perform better,” he said. “So, that’s something I’ll try to take into tomorrow for sure.”

Simpson had the only bogey-free round among the leaders, posting four birdies for a 4-under 66. He will be in the next-to-last pairing with Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, who had a pair of eagles on his way to a 67. Fleetwood and Jamie Lovemark are tied for fourth, two shots off the lead.

For all of that, Thomas emerged from the day as the betting favorite. A resident of Palm Beach County since joining the Tour in 2015, he’s playing in his fourth Honda Classic, having finished third in 2016 but also missing the cut the other two years.

“I shot a thousand my rookie year,” he said. “I hit it in so many hazards because I wasn’t playing well and it was windy and raining and I was in the bad draw. It was brutal.”

Thomas was the only player to shoot all four rounds in the 60s in 2016 but still finished four shots behind winner Adam Scott. Last year, rounds of 71 and 70 left him one shot off the cut line. He was watching Sunday’s final round on TV when close friend Rickie Fowler opened up a big lead late, and he drove back to PGA National to congratulate Fowler as he walked off the 18th green.

So would Thomas expect Fowler, who missed the cut this time around, to do the same for him?

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come,” Thomas said. “I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about (that). But it would mean a lot.”

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