Justin Thomas must love the back nine at Innisbrook.
He’s 10 under through two rounds at the Valspar Championship, and it’s all because of his performance on the back nine.
Thomas started on No. 1 Thursday afternoon and was a pedestrian even par through nine holes. He proceeded to make three birdies and an eagle on the back nine, with no bogeys. A first-round score of 5 under left him two shots off the lead.
Thomas began his second round on No. 10 and picked up where he left off Thursday. After an opening par, he birdied five of his next seven holes. A par on 18 capped another 5-under 30 on the back nine.
For those keeping track at home, that’s 60 shots over 18 consecutive holes.
The three-hole closing stretch at Innisbrook, “The Snake Pit,” is known for its difficulty, but apparently no one told Thomas how tough it is. He’s 2 under through two rounds on holes 16, 17 and 18, including an impressive birdie Friday morning on the 225-yard par-3 17th. Thomas stuck his tee shot roughly 3 feet from the cup and was able to capitalize from there.
“I just have to go out and get it and execute, and I feel like the areas that I needed to improve are starting to improve, and I feel like the areas that were pretty good are maintaining that or even getting a little bit better,” Thomas said after Round 2. “So at this point, it’s just about kind of staying in that focus and really just trying to execute each shot.”
Full-field scores from Valspar Championship
Thomas reached 12 under and was briefly the solo leader late Friday morning until a double-bogey on the par-4 seventh. An errant tee shot into the left rough left a difficult second shot that needed to be hooked around a group of trees. Thomas tried to pull it off, but wound up 34 yards right of the hole. His third shot came up short and finished in a greenside bunker, where he failed to get up-and-down for bogey.
Thomas acknowledged after the round that his second shot on No. 7 “didn’t really need to happen.”
“I mean, not trying to snap hook a 52-degree around a tree and, I mean, I should have just tried to hit it in the front bunker and it was a pretty easy up-and-down,” he said after his second consecutive 5-under 66. “And those wedges, which is why I use the Vokey wedges, like in a pitching wedge and gap wedge is because you can get a lot more spin on it out of the rough. But the rough is just a little too dry to where I couldn’t get enough spin on the ball to curve it, but obviously I felt like I could.”
Thomas still finds himself in a great spot heading into the weekend, trailing current leader Adam Hadwin by four shots.