Justin Thomas takes the lead Saturday, then ejects 65 spots down the leaderboard

Justin Thomas reacts to missing a putt at the Valspar.

Justin Thomas had 38 putts Saturday.

Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Among the 11 players tied for 6th at the Valspar Championship — behind a five-way tie for the lead — perhaps the most feared was Justin Thomas.

Thomas suffered through a well-publicized slump during the 2023 season and hasn’t won since his second major title at the 2022 PGA Championship.

In 2024, things started off better with three straight top-12s, but now Thomas has missed two of his last three cuts heading into the Valspar, an event he’s only finished outside the top 18 once in six tires.

He looked like he was going to continue that streak Saturday when he birdied the opening hole at Innisbrook’s Copperhead course. Despite being a shot back at the start of the day, Thomas was the live betting favorite to win at +550, or 11-2.

But Saturday was not the day Thomas envisioned.

On the par-4 second, he hit his approach to 26 feet, but his first putt raced seven feet past the cup and he three-putted. On the par-4 third, he blasted his third shot from a greenside bunker to six feet, but he missed the putt to fall back to four under.

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Sensing a theme here?

He missed a 13-footer for birdie on four and a six-footer for another one on five.

Then came No. 7.

Despite the slow start and the missed opportunities, Thomas was still just three shots back on the seventh green, thanks to a difficult setup and jammed-pack leaderboard at Innisbrook.

But at the seventh, he hit his approach into another greenside bunker and then blasted out to 10 feet. His first putt rolled past the hole, but it only stopped two feet, three inches from the hole. That should have been an easy tap-in and he would have walked away with just a bogey.

It should have been easy, right?

It wasn’t.

Thomas blocked the putt hard and it caught the lip and spun around the cup more than 180 degrees in rejection. Thomas barely reacted as he finished off the last eight inches for a severely deflating double.

There was still more to come for Thomas as he bogeyed the next two holes — including missing a four-footer on No. 8 — and turned in five-over 41 to fall to even par. His odds to win the tournament had fallen all the way to 250-1, or +25000, per GOLF betting expert Brady Kannon.

He made three more bogeys on the back nine to finish with a 79 Saturday, dropping him from five under to three over for the tournament and down to a tie for 66th place. By the time he finished, his odds were 500-1, or +50000, on DraftKings, tied for the worst in the field. He lost 12 strokes to the leader as he’ll go off early Sunday,

It won’t be hard for Thomas to diagnose a cause for his play Saturday. After logging 27 putts each of the first two days, Thomas had surpassed that mark by his 13th hole Saturday. He finished with a whopping 38 putts in the third round, unable to convert a single putt outside three feet. He lost more than seven strokes on the greens in Round 3, the worst mark in the field.

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