NAPA. Calif. — Justin Thomas committed to a driver change, tinkered a little with his swing and got immediate results with a 5-under 67 that left him four strokes off the pace Friday in the Fortinet Championship.
It was exactly what the former top-ranked player needed after going winless during the FedEx Cup season, taking some time off and then struggling through the first round in Napa. One of four U.S. Ryder Cup team members at Silverado Resort, Thomas feels much better about his game than he did a short time ago.
S.H. Kim played in the afternoon and made six birdies and one bogey for a 67 and a share of the lead with Sahith Theegala
(64) at 12-under 132. Kim had a chance to pull ahead on his last hole, but left a 24-foot putt short on No. 18.
Sangmoon Bae (66) was third at 11 under, a shot ahead of Eric Cole (66).
Thomas, using a new driver with a shaft nearly an inch longer, was much more crisp off the tee and got longer, more accurate drives as a result.
Thomas said he’s been practicing using the new driver for about three weeks and is pleased with the results, saying he may never switch back. He hit 8 of 14 fairways Friday and had an average driving distance of 340 yards.
“If I drive it like I did today, I’ll use it for the rest of my career,” Thomas joked.
Austin Cook (Jonesboro, Arkansas Razorbacks) is tied for 19th after his second consecutive 3-under 69. Cook is at 6-under 138. Andrew Landry (Razorbacks) also had a 3-under 69 on Friday and is at 3-under 141 overall. Nico Echavarria (Razorbacks) missed the cut, finishing at 1-over 145 for the tournament.