Justin Thomas eyes PLAYERS victory after surging into contention on day three

The American has hauled himself back into the frame with superb round of 8-under 64 on Saturday.

Justin Thomas appeared to be treading water in THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass after opening rounds of 71-71.

But in Saturday's third round, he found a spark. Recording the tournament's low round of 8-under 64, the American surged into contention, jumping 19 spots to end the day in tied third place.

At 10-under, he's now just three shots shy of leader Lee Westwood.

Thomas was seven strokes off the pace as he teed off on Saturday, but a lightning start saw the 27-year-old record four successive birdies in his first four holes.

In total he racked up seven birdies before providing one of the highlights of the day - an eagle at the par-5 16th after a sensational approach.

It leaves him right in the hunt to record his first PGA TOUR win since last August's WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

Victory on Sunday would put Thomas in elite company, making him just the fourth player to win THE PLAYERS, the FedEx Cup, a Major Championship and a WGC. The other three: Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy.

Here's what Thomas had to say on his enthralling third-round display at TPC Sawgrass.

On his third-round performance

"I wish all rounds were that easy. I hit the ball beautifully, I drove it well, I hit a couple squirrelly shots there at the end of the front nine, but the good part is that I knew why they were happening. I knew what the swing flaw was, what the physical mistake was, so I felt like I kind of bounced back from that pretty well.

"I just know that I have to stay patient out here because you can make a lot of birdies, and hitting driver well is helping."

On heading onto the 5th after making four successive birdies

"I actually made four birdies to start around here before. I did it my rookie year when I shot 65. So, I knew that, and I think I bogeyed 5, as well. I hit a beautiful drive there and I just was staring it right down the smokestack with an 8-iron and just double-crossed it, hit it in the worst place you could hit it.

"Obviously, I would have liked to make birdie or par there, but that could have been the best thing to happen to me to kind of wake me up and snap out of it, because I wanted to keep making birdies. I didn't want to kind of hold back and play away from making bogeys, I wanted to keep trying to make birdies."

On his eagle at 16

"Golf is so fun when you're playing well and when things are going well it's really easy, but this game isn't like that, unfortunately. I've had definitely my fair share of lows this season and I just a lot of stuff going on mentally that I felt like I've never had to deal with and maybe taking things for granted or just not enjoying the game."

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"Being irritable, being frustrated, emotional on the golf course is not good for me. It's definitely not good for Jimmy. I'm sure he likes it when I play better a little more, too. But it's just when you're able to get in those zones and hit those shots exactly how you see it, it's fun. It really is."

On trying to have more fun on the golf course

"I wish my mood and emotions weren't so dependent on my golf, but golf is my life and it is my job, and I care a lot about it and I care a lot about how I play. So, it unfortunately does depend or make and break my mood. But I'm trying to get better. I'm growing up a little bit, but at the same time it means a lot to me and playing well and winning tournaments means a lot as well."

On everything clicking

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"It was only one round, it's not like I feel unbelievable again and I'm back to how I felt in '17 or 2018. When you see signs and I'm able to hit shots that I've struggled with the last couple months, and just stepping up there and making putts at the speed that I want to and almost kind of creating breaks with the speed that I'm hitting putts, it's stuff like that that when I'm feeling good and when I'm in a little bit of a rhythm is what's nice."

On trying to chase speed and distance

"I think I did four or five years ago and got a little bit, and I definitely did. I still am and have been since Bryson. You would be stupid if you said what he's doing to golf courses doesn't make it easier.

"I think it's extremely underrated and not talked about enough how straight he hits it, swinging at 135 miles an hour. I mean I can hit it pretty damn crooked at 116 or 117 miles an hour and he hits it really straight at 135. And he putts it really well.

"I would love to fly it 330 every time, but no offense to Bryson, but I'm not going to put on 40 pounds. I don't have the build or stature for that. I've always been about getting the most out of what I can, but it's not like I'm solely focused on that, I've been working on other parts of my game as well."

On whether he can replicate his Saturday performance on Sunday

"I would love to. I don't think I need to, but I would love to because I would like my chances if I shot 64 again tomorrow."

Paddy Power have priced Justin Thomas at 9/2 to be victorious at TPC Sawgrass.

READ MORE: Bryson DeChambeau eyes back-to-back PGA TOUR wins and he's done it before

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