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Thomas hits back with a bang


Justin Thomas hauled himself out of a brief mid-year slump on Sunday and came blazing home victorious against a world-class field in the prestigious WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at storied Firestone Country Club in Akron Ohio.

And this ahead of his defense next week of the PGA Championship, the 4th and final major of the year.

The 25-year-old World No 3 from Kentucky shot a 1-under 69 to close with a 15-under 265 total as he cruised to a four-stroke victory over fellow American Kyle Stanley (68) and beat the strong-finishing pair of Dustin Johnson, the World No 1, and Thorbjørn Olesen of Denmark by five. Both posted best-of-the day 64s to tie for third. 

Thomas teed off on Sunday with a three-shot lead and never looked like losing it as, playing solid, rather than aggressive golf, he cruised home comfortably to his 9th US PGA Tour title and his first in a World Golf Championships event.

Tiger Woods, who has won a record eight-times at Firestone, never managed to get into contention and finished well down the field all of 15 shots off the pace after closing with a 3-over 73.

Thomas said his victory was a special one because he was able to achieve it in front of his proud grandparents of whom Paul played in the 1960 PGA Championship at Firestone. 

"They don't get to come out very often anymore. This is my first PGA Tour win with them here, so it's pretty cool," he told a greenside interviewer.

As the season's third, three-time winner on the PGA Tour with Johnson and Bubba Watson, Thomas was able to keep his game solid on a day when his three closest chasers allowed their's to come apart at the seams.

A still too-erratic Rory McIlroy ran into a string of three bogeys around the turn, shot a 73 and finished seven shots back.

Englishman Ian Poulter's ran into putting trouble and four bogeys on the front nine effectively ended his race. He shot a 74 that saw him tumble down into a 10th place tie with Australian Jason Day, the third player, who had started the day as a serious contender.

Day was still a threat when he moved up to 12-under after three consecutive birdies from the 10th, but he blew himself out of the water when he inexplicably dropped five shots on the next five holes.

The Bridgestone moves to Memphis next year, ending its long association with Firestone and it prompted Thomas to say: "I'm glad I finally played well around here, just in time for it to leave."

(Par 70 - US player unless stated)

265 Justin Thomas 65 64 67 69
269 Kyle Stanley 63 68 70 68
270 Thorbjørn Olesen (DEN) 71 67 68 64, Dustin Johnson 69 71 66 64
271 Brooks Koepka 66 70 68 67
272 Aaron Wise 67 71 67 67, Anirban Lahiri (IND) 65 70 69 68, Patrick Cantlay 64 72 68 68, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 65 67 67 73
273 Tony Finau 68 66 71 68, Kim Si woo (KOR) 64 68 72 69, Jason Day (AUS) 65 66 69 73, Ian Poulter (ENG) 62 67 70 74
274 Matt Kuchar 68 70 67 69, Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 66 63 74 71, Marc Leishman (AUS) 65 69 67 73
275 Gary Woodland 67 71 69 68, Ross Fisher (ENG) 67 68 71 69, Zach Johnson 69 70 67 69, Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP) 68 67 69 71, Rickie Fowler 63 74 65 73, Jon Rahm (ESP) 64 70 68 73
276 Cameron Smith (AUS) 70 70 69 67
277 Phil Mickelson 66 69 72 70, Webb Simpson 69 65 71 72, Luke List 65 68 71 73, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 68 66 69 74
278 Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 68 67 72 71, Patrick Reed 66 70 70 72. 

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Neville Leck

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