Tiger Woods moves on to PGA Championship as Justin Thomas wins Bridgestone by four shotsAugust 5, 2018
Published 10:54 p.m. UTC Aug 5, 2018
AKRON, Ohio – Justin Thomas will be riding a wave of momentum into his title defense at the PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods has little mojo to call upon.
Thomas, who won his first major in last year’s PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, was the dominant figure in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. With rounds of 65-64-67-69, he finished at 15 under to win his first WGC title by four shots Sunday at Firestone Country Club.
His ninth PGA Tour title – and eighth in the last 22 months – was the perfect way to get ready for the 100th edition of the PGA Championship that begins Thursday at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.
“I’m glad I finally played well around here,” said Thomas, who moved to No. 2 in the world after toppling Kyle Stanley by four and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Thorbjorn Olesen by five.
A good par save on the first and a birdie on the second settled Thomas, who held a three-shot lead after 54 holes.
“I was really nervous today,” said Thomas, who won for the third time this season and for the first time since March. “It felt like it had been a while, but I guess it hadn’t really been that long. I was very nervous, very jittery. To make that putt on 1 and again on 2 just kind of calmed me and got me going for the day.”
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Thomas was moved to tears as he won his first PGA Tour title with his grandparents, Paul and Phyllis, in attendance. Paul Thomas was a PGA professional. Also on hand were Thomas’ father, Mike, a PGA pro and his son’s instructor, and mother, Jani.
An ideal ending at the last WGC at Firestone, as the tournament moves to Memphis in 2019.
For Woods, a lost weekend spoiled his farewell to Firestone. Instead of a storybook ending at a place he’s won a record eight times, Tiger tailed off in the final two rounds, looking out of sorts each day.
He rarely flashed that big smile of his, but then again, there really wasn’t much to be happy about over his final 36 holes. After opening with a 4-under-par 66 and following up with a 68 to get into contention, Woods had a pair of 73s that dropped him well down the leaderboard.
In the final round, Woods made five birdies, six bogeys and two double bogeys.
At times, he looked lethargic, his head down and his step void of pep. He admitted he didn’t have much control of his golf ball, and while he did all he could to correct his swing flaws, in the end he hit just 12 of 28 fairways in regulation on the weekend and just 19 of 36 greens in regulation.
He also was the first to tell you he didn’t putt very well, either.
“Well, things could have certainly gone better, but it is what it is and on to next week,” said a rather upbeat Woods, who will play the PGA for the first time since he missed the cut in 2015.
He’ll have to flip the switch if he’s to contend for his fifth PGA title and 15th major championship. After turning in two of his best performances of the year in his last two starts heading to Firestone – a tie for fourth in the Quicken Loans National and a tie for sixth in the British Open where he took the outright lead in the final round – Woods fell flat on a track he adores. He finished at even par and tied for 31st.
Looking to make a move in the final two rounds, he said he “just played like crap” Saturday. He changed his mental approach for the final round but that didn’t do much good.
“Well, today, I was just trying to be as aggressive as possible and fire at everything,” Woods said. “It was either going to be 62 or 63 or something in the mid-70s. I was so far back. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
“I didn’t quite hit the ball as clean as I wanted to or I wasn’t as sharp, for sure. The first day making a bunch of putts helped kind of cover a few things up. It is what it is, it happens.”
Woods hasn’t been at Bellerive since 2001, when he was forced to drive home after the WGC-American Express Championship was cancelled because of 9/11.
He said he might go to the course Monday in hopes of getting a feel for the place, especially the greens. From what he’s heard from a few who have recently taken reconnaissance trips to Bellerive, the course is in great shape and ripe for scoring. Woods didn’t do much of that at Firestone.
“Got three more days to clean it up,” he said, “and I’ll be ready come Thursday.”