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Justin Thomas finds form with new driver, moves into Fortinet contention

Fortinet Championship - Round Two

NAPA, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Justin Thomas of the United States teeing off on hole #18 during the second round of the Fortinet Championship at Silverado Resort on September 15, 2023 in Napa, California. (Photo by Al Chang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

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Justin Thomas talked recently about taking ownership of his swing. That swing worked quite well on Friday when Thomas shot 5-under 67 to move into contention at the Fortinet Championship.

Thomas, coming off his worst season as a pro, said he got “it around when I didn’t have much” in the opening round at Silverado, carding a 69.

After a short but efficient range session Thursday afternoon, Thomas made six birdies and one bogey in Round 2, moving within four shots of co-leaders S.H. Kim and Sahith Theegala.

“My miss is right and that’s from getting stuck underneath it, just kind of not a very clean transition. It will get a little long with the driver and just kind of get stuck underneath, and then from there it’s just a lot of timing,” Thomas explained. “So today just felt like I’m on top of the ball a little bit more, almost like a pull-cut type feel.”

The stats – not just the feels – prove Thomas correct. He was T-146 in driving accuracy in Round 1 and inside the top 20 in Round 2. He was 97th in strokes gained: off the tee in Rd. 1; second in Rd. 2.

He also hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation on Friday and led the field in driving distance, averaging 340 yards on measured tee shots.

Thomas is using a relatively new, slightly longer Titleist driver, saying he’s been working with it for less than three weeks.

“I was hitting it really, really well for two and a half weeks and then literally Wednesday in the pro-am I just started not hitting it well at all. I just hadn’t used it in competition to have the trust and faith in it,” he said.

But after his performance on Friday, which put in him position to win his first PGA Tour event since the ’22 PGA Championship, Thomas said:

“If I drive it like I did today, I’ll use it for the rest of my career.”