By Chris Kudialis
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Former Alabama golfer Justin Thomas apparently doesn’t need a memorable round to dash up the leaderboard at a major tournament.
Thomas, who starred for the Crimson Tide in 2012 and 2013, said his 5-under round of 66 – tied for the second best round of 155 golfers at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club – “just a good day.” It left him at 3-under for the tournament, tied for seventh among finishers in Friday’s rain-delayed second round and five strokes behind tournament leaders Karl Kisner and Hideki Matsuyama.
“It’s not like it was a memorable round in history or anything like that,” Thomas said. “I’m going to have dinner, go to sleep tonight, wake up tomorrow and forget about it. I’m just happy my name is farther up the leaderboard.”
Thomas carded his first birdie on the par-4 second hole, sinking a 20-foot putt after pitching a nine-iron on the green from 148 yards out off a pile of pine straw. The former Tide golfer holed a winding 57-foot birdie putt on the par-3 sixth hole to move back to even par on the tournament and also birdied the par-5 seventh. His only bogey of the day, caused by an errant second shot from the fairway into the bunker on the par-4 ninth hole, completed a 2-under 34 on the front 9.
He nearly holed a wedge from 118 yards out before tapping in for birdie on the par-5 10th, and dropped a 10-footer for another birdie on the par-4 12th. His sixth birdie of the day came on the short par-4 14th hole.
After saying Thursday he wanted to work on driving accuracy, Thomas found only one more fairway – 8 of 14 – on Friday than his opening round. But he hit 12 of 18 greens in regulation on Friday, compared to just seven on Thursday, and had only 25 putts.
“I actually capitalized before the delay, I didn’t play very well after I came back out,” said Thomas, whose round was stopped for nearly two hours on the 13th hole as heavy rain showers hit Charlotte. “But I had some great par saves, so the finish at 5-under today was great.”
Asked for his strategy moving into the weekend, Thomas was emphatic he still believed he could win his first career major on Sunday.
“I can make up five shots in 9 holes let alone 36 holes,” he said. “There are a lot of things that can happen, obviously I have to play great, but we’re only halfway through.”