Mistakes cost Thomas chance to repeat
Justin Thomas didn’t lose a whole lot of confidence after a three-putt bogey on the ninth hole. He rebounded with a couple more birdies to start the back nine and get back into contention for his second straight PGA Championship.
The real mistake came on the par-4 14th at Bellerive.
The defending champion had a wedge in his hands from 128 yards and dumped it into a greenside bunker. Thomas wound up making bogey from there, and then added another bogey a couple holes later, effectively ending any chances he had of going back-to-back.
“I don’t really know what happened,” said Thomas, whose 2-under 68 left him six shots back of winner Brooks Koepka. “I just shouldn’t have ever been there. I should have had it inside 10 feet for birdie and, yeah, just kind of killed my momentum.”
Thomas came into the week with plenty of momentum after winning a World Golf Championship at Firestone, and it never really abated. He opened with a 69 before a 5-under 65 thrust him into the mix. He added a 68 in the third round to leave himself with work to do on Sunday.
He had a chance, though. And it became a really good chance by the time he made the turn.
“Starting four back and then having a putt to take the lead on No. 9, I couldn’t have really drawn it up any better,” he said. “I just had a lot of things go wrong on that putt on nine. I didn’t play enough break, I hit it too hard, I had a huge spike mark in my line, and I pushed it.
“But like I said, I bounced back fine and I still had a great chance.”
Thomas now turns his attention to the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup and the opportunity to turn another good season into a great one.
“Looking forward to the week off and relaxing and getting the body and mind fresh again,” he said, “but try to keep this form up because I feel like I’m playing really well.”
Koepka breaks protocol on final putt of the day
Brooks Koepka’s 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole stopped a few inches short, and then he appeared to break protocol.
He tapped in.
Typically, the champion will mark to let his playing partner finish to avoid any early celebration. Adam Scott missed his 15-foot par putt, putting him alone in third.
Koepka said he felt tapping in avoided a distraction because the mark inches from the cup would have been in Scott’s line of sight.
“I didn’t want it to be in his way because I knew he’d be looking at it,” Koepka said. “It was so close to the hole, I didn’t want to take away from anything that he was doing because I knew he needed to make the putt, and I kind of wanted to get out of his way.”
Koepka said if the ball was not directly behind the hole, he would have marked it.
Cink clinches return to Augusta National
Stewart Cink is headed back to the Masters.
Cink last played Augusta National in 2014, the last of his five-year exemption from winning the British Open. He missed by one shot finishing in the top 12, which would have got him in the following year.
But with birdies on the last two holes, Cink closed with a 67 and tied for fourth with Jon Rahm.
The top four and ties from the PGA Championship are invited to Augusta National.
Club pro earns $33,281 paycheck at Bellerive
Ben Kern was assured of being the top club professional at the PGA Championship when he survived to play the weekend, the only one of the 20 that teed it up Thursday to make the cut.
He wound up with a fat paycheck to go with his crystal trophy.
Kern shot a third-round 67 before finishing with an even-par 70, which left him at 3 under for the championship and tied for 42nd. That was good for $33,281 out of the $11 million purse.
“I knew if I had fun,” Kern said, “I would play well.”
He played so well that Kern set a PGA Championship for club pros. He finished at 277, breaking by two shots the score Jimmy Wright shot in 1969 at NCR Country Club in Ohio. Wright finished fourth that year.