Perfect preparation for Thomas ahead of PGA defence
American Justin Thomas enjoyed the perfect preparation for this week’s PGA Championship as he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio by four shots.
Thomas was well clear of fellow American Kyle Stanley with world number one Dustin Johnson, second at The Open back in 2011, finishing tied third a further shot back.
The 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year Rory McIlroy had started the final round three shots off leader Thomas but a round of 73 saw him drop to tied sixth.
Thomas will now have high hopes of defending his PGA Championship title in the final major of the 2018 calendar, which starts on Thursday at Bellerive Golf Course in Missouri.
EMOTIONAL WIN FOR THOMAS
Thomas started his final round three shots clear of McIlroy and Ian Poulter at the Firestone Country Club in Ohio, and made just a single bogey as he signed for a 69.
The 25-year-old struck a birdie on the second before dropping a shot on the sixth only for six straight pars to settle any of the American’s nerves.
Another birdie at 13 extended his lead and Thomas moves back to world number two in the rankings after a victory which brought him to tears.
“It is the first time I have cried after winning a tournament. It was pretty cool to have my grandma and grandad watching me,” he said.
“It feels awesome. I did not hit the ball as well but we had so much control and I had a very clean card at the end.
“It’s big because I was really nervous. I don’t know. I was very nervous, very jittery. I felt like if I keep making pars and sprinkle in a couple here and there, I’d have a good chance.”
JOHNSON'S SURGE NOT ENOUGH
McIlroy concluded the back nine with consecutive bogeys and finished three-over-par on the final day whilst Poulter slipped to tenth with a 74.
In fact, it was Johnson who put most pressure on Thomas as he completed the front nine in 29, having started the day ten shots off the pace.
A birdie on the tenth moved the American within three of Thomas but he was unable to find further magic and, after a bogey on the last, closed with a 64.
Johnson shared third with Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, who also hit a six-under-par final round, with US Open champion Brooks Koepka in fifth.
Elsewhere, Jason Day threatened with three straight birdies but struggled in the final six holes to finish on 73, while Tiger Woods, a three-time Champion of the Year, was 15 shots back.
PODIUM FOR ELS
Elsewhere, India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar claimed his maiden European Tour title thanks to a stunning eagle on the penultimate hole.
The 30-year-old pipped Anthony Quayle to the title by one shot while 2012 Champion Golfer of the Year Ernie Els struck a seven-under-par final round to finish a further shot back.
Els’ final round 65 took him to tied third – his best finish since 2013 – alongside New Zealand’s Ben Campbell with Jarryd Felton in fifth, two shots further back.
The South African struck an eagle and six birdies for his first top-10 finish since June 2016.
“I did almost as much as I could,” Els said. “I set out to try to shoot 65, which I did, and Anthony (Quayle) just played unbelievable.”
Next July The Open will return to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years. Tickets for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush are on sale and selling fast with weekly tickets already sold out. Visit TheOpen.com/PortrushTickets today for further details.