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Thomas opens three-shot lead over McIlroy at Bridgestone

Thomas opens three-shot lead over McIlroy at Bridgestone

Justin Thomas pulled away from the crowd with five birdies in the middle of his round for a 3-under 67 and a 3-shot lead going into the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational.

Eight-time World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational champion Tiger Woods has officially qualified for the 2018 event. He was 11 shots behind.

World number three Thomas was pleased his score reflected the quality of his game as he warms up to defend his PGA Championship title next week.

McIlroy conceded he missed a handful of opportunities to be closer to the lead heading into the final 18 holes, including one from four feet at the 10th, but he was delighted to keep a bogey off his card for the second time this week.

"It's the best I've hit it off the tee, and probably the best I've hit it overall", said McIlroy, who spent last week in south Florida preparing alongside Thomas on the range at The Bear's Club.

"I'm excited for tomorrow to see how everything holds up". I wish I could have converted a couple more of the chances, but it sort of all evened out. I came off yesterday and I couldn't believe how good the scoring was.

"The course is going to be tougher and totally different to the previous three rounds and it's going to feel like a major".

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"Yeah, I'm fine. Just played like crap", said Woods.

With so much of the focus on the young superstars, Poulter, who will join Day in the penultimate twosome, could sneak in and take his second TOUR title this year.

"If I had shot one under today I think it would have felt the worst I could have shot with where I was putting some of my tee shots", McIlroy said.

A nice putt on the fifth handed him a birdie on the par-three, but he would immediately give that shot back on the sixth before regaining it again at the seventh.

"It's a huge buzz to be in contention", he said after mixing four birdies with as many bogeys in his third-round 70.

"The hard part about this course is you can get off track pretty quick if you're not playing well", Thomas told CBS television.

Adam Scott, the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone victor, had a day to forget with a 75 sinking his total to three over. "I'm going to need some inspiration from Thursday, going clean (bogey-free), not making any mistakes and just having fun".