By Brian Keogh
Graeme McDowell moved up just one place with a 70 and Shane Lowry endured a tough day on the greens and shot 74 to slip to the back of the field.
McDowell began the day tied for 30th and ended in tied 29th on five-under and 11 strokes adrift of 12-time PGA Tour winner Thomas (27) who went bogey-free for the third day running and shot a second successive 66 to lead by two strokes from Norway’s Viktor Hovland on 16-under par.
Seeking his second PGA Tour win, Hovland (22) also carded a 66 and with 20 birdies, he’s made more than anyone else in the field.
Thomas and Hovland will be joined in the final group by halfway leader Collin Morikawa (23) who carded a level-par 72 to trail the leader by three shots on 13-under.
McDowell hit all 14 fairways and missed just four greens but after picking up three shots thanks to four front nine birdies., he had little fortune on the greens on the back nine.
It was an even more trying day for Lowry, who made four birdies but also four bogeys and a double bogey.
The Offaly man had two three-putts in a 32-putt round, missing twice inside four feet as he shot 74 to fall to tied 54th on one-under-par.
As for the final three-ball, it promises to be a special one with Thomas the elder statesman alongside two of the game’s up and coming stars.
“I don't think I'm quite a veteran yet,” Thomas said. “I think I've got a little ways to go. But yeah, today I played with Collin. I've been around Collin a good bit. I haven't spent much time around Viktor. I've obviously seen him and know he's an unbelievable player, so it'll be fun to play with those two guys tomorrow because I'm sure it's the first of many pairings I'll have with them.
“But a guy like Collin, I could be playing and having him as a teammate in Ryder Cups, Presidents Cups, whatever it is. It'll be fun to hang with those guys tomorrow, but at the end of the day I'm worried about myself and trying to win a golf tournament and have a good round.”
Justin Thomas 68-66-66—200 (-16)
Viktor Hovland 69-67-66—202 (-14)
Collin Morikawa 65-66-72—203 (-13)
Sam Burns 69-66-70—205 (-11)
Kevin Streelman 70-64-71—205 (-11)
Things to Know
Justin Thomas holds 54-hole lead/co-lead for 13th time on PGA TOUR, converting eight of previous 12
Fifteen third-round leaders/co-leaders have converted for the win on the PGA TOUR in 2019-20 (Most recently Webb Simpson/RBC Heritage)
Justin Thomas is bogey-free thru 54 holes; Last player to win bogey-free for 72 holes – J.T. Poston/2019 Wyndham Championship
Last player to go bogey-free for 72 holes and not win; Scott Piercy/2019 AT&T Byron Nelson
After notching a birdie on his 36th hole Saturday morning to make the cut on the number, Monday qualifier MJ Daffue (No. 1,373 in OWGR) posts 7-under 65 to sit T8
Bronson Burgoon aced the 8th hole, the third hole-in-one this week
Final Grouping Comparison (entering the week)
Justin Thomas Viktor Hovland Collin Morikawa
Age 27 (4/29/1993) 22 (9/18/1997) 23 (2/6/1997)
FedExCup 2 35 21
OWGR 5 42 29
PGA TOUR starts 148 23 25
PGA TOUR wins 12 1 1
Starts in 2019-20 11 13 14
Top-10s in 2019-20 7 2 4
Justin Thomas (1st/-16)
With a birdie at No. 11, reached 14-under to take the lead; Added two additional birdies to hold two-stroke lead
Marks first time in his career to go bogey-free in the opening three rounds of a PGA TOUR event
Recorded 79th round of 66 or better since the start of the 2014-15 PGA TOUR Season (most of any player)
Since 1983, only two players have gone bogey-free through 54 holes at Muirfield Village (Scott Hoch/1987, Jim Furyk/1997/*54-hole event)
Third player to go bogey-free through the first three rounds this season (Tyler Duncan/The RSM Classic/Won, Troy
Merritt/Rocket Mortgage Classic/T8)
Sits second in the FedExCup standings, 117 points behind Webb Simpson, who is not in the field this week
16-under 200 is two strokes shy of lowest opening 54-hole score at Muirfield Village (198/Scott Hoch/1987)
This marks his 13th 54-hole lead/co-lead on TOUR, most recently 2020 WGC-Mexico Championship (T6)
Went on to win eight of his previous 12 54-hole leads/co-leads, most recently 2019 THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES
Has made all 46 of 46 record on putts from inside 8 feet this week
Viktor Hovland (2nd/-14)
Ranks No. 1 in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee through 54 holes (5.166)
PGA TOUR rookie seeks second victory in 19th PGA TOUR start as a professional; Notched a one-stroke win at the 2020 Puerto Rico Open
With 20, has made most birdies of any player in the field
Sits at No. 35 in FedExCup standings, 83 points behind leading rookie Scottie Scheffler (No. 23/697 points), who missed the cut this week
18- and 36-hole leader Collin Morikawa (3rd/-13) hit 11 of 18 greens after hitting 14 of 18 in each of the first two rounds en route to 72 (E) and slipped to T3, three strokes back
2017 Nicklaus Award recipient Sam Burns (T4/-11) posts his 11th consecutive sub-par score
Kevin Streelman (T4/-11) will be making his 12th start at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide next week after finishing fourth at Muirfield Village in 2019
Monday qualifier MJ Daffue posted a bogey-free 7-under 65 following a final-hole birdie to complete the second round earlier in the day to make the cut on the number; joined leader Justin Thomas with the only bogey-free third rounds
Rickie Fowler’s (T8/-9) eagle at No. 7 marks his second of the week (No. 15/R2); has current streak of 16 rounds at Muirfield Village in par or better
Bronson Burgoon (T29/-5) aced No. 8 with an 8-iron from 166 yards, the third hole-in-one this week (Jason Kokrak/No. 16/R1, Keegan Bradley/No. 4/R1)
Toughest hole Easiest hole
R1 Par-3 16th (3.318) Par-5 5th (4.611)
R2 Par-3 16th (3.265) Par-5 5th (4.536)
R3 Par-3 4th (3.343) Par-5 7th (4.478)
Front 9 Back 9 Total Cumulative
R1 35.465 36.656 72.121 --
R2 36.053 36.212 72.265 72.193
R3 35.119 36.194 71.313 72.035
R1 (2): Nick Taylor (67), Justin Thomas (68)
R2 (4): Sam Burns (66), Justin Thomas (66), Hideki Matsuyama (68), Russell Henley (70)
R3 (2): MJ Daffue (65), Justin Thomas (66)