ERIN (Wisconsin) • Justin Thomas sat on the end of his golf bag, like a hiker resting on a log, and extended his arms. As he suspected, they were quivering.
With eight feet left to navigate on Erin Hills’ undulating 7,741-yard layout, the American golfer had US Open history in his sights and food on his mind.
For the final few holes of his third round, his hunger to contend for his first Major championship had superseded his appetite.
Caught up in a birdie binge, he neglected to eat. On the par-five 18th hole, he had an eagle putt for a nine-under 63, and all he could think about was dinner.
“I just get a little jittery and shaky,” he said, adding, “I was so mad at myself for that.”
He steadied his hands and sank the shot to record the lowest score in relation to par in US Open history.
He is the fifth player to post a 63 in a US Open, joining Johnny Miller, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf and Vijay Singh. But Thomas is the only one to do it on a par-72 course.
Justin Thomas’ third-round score at the US Open . The American became the fifth to post a 63 at this Major, but is the only one to achieve the mark on a par-72 course.
Miller shot an eight-under 63 in the final round of the 1973 US Open at Oakmont Country Club to win the title.
Asked what the 63 meant to him, Thomas replied: “It means I have a lot better chance to win the tournament than I did when the day started.
“I’ve been playing pretty well all week… I feel comfortable.”
Miller, though impressed by Thomas’ round which included an eagle, nine birdies and two bogeys, was not exactly in awe.
“Taking nothing away, nine under is incredible with US Open pressure,” the 70-year-old told GolfChannel.com. “But it isn’t a US Open course that I’m familiar with the way it was set up. It looks like a PGA Tour event course set-up.
“The (US Open) course wasn’t designed to be soft, and if it was going to be soft, it should have been 26-or-27-yard-wide fairways. That’s what made it easy.”
Thomas, 24, started the day five strokes off the seven-under lead, held jointly by Tommy Fleetwood, Brian Harman, Paul Casey and Brooks Koepka.
With his birdie-eagle finish, he ended up in a tie for second at 11-under 205, one stroke behind Harman. Fleetwood (68) and Koepka (68) shared second place with him.
Fleetwood looked as if he might challenge Rory McIlroy’s 54-hole tournament record of 14 under from 2011 when he made his fifth birdie (against no bogeys) to get to 12 under with three holes to play. But the long-hitting Fleetwood made a bogey at the 18th hole.
Still, the Englishman said he was proud to walk off the last hole after making a six.
His third shot came to rest woefully short, and his fourth went over the green. He described his fifth shot, which came to rest three feet from the hole, as his finest of the day.
Harman, 30, who won his second career Tour title in May at the Wells Fargo Championship, posted a 67 on a course that was softened by an overnight rainstorm.
“I’m proud of the way I hung in there today,” said Harman, who, on the third hole, recorded his only bogey, then bounced back with a birdie, his second of six, on the fourth hole.
NYTIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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