Justin Thomas got off to a slow start in the third round of the 2018 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but then caught fire in the middle with five birdies in nine holes and looked poised to run away with the golf tournament like we've seen happen so many times in Firestone's history. 

A 1-over finish over the last four holes led to a 67 from Thomas to get him to 14 under overall and kept the field in it, but Thomas' hot run in the middle put him in position to win for the third time this season and give him the first WGC title of his career.

Thomas, who putted stupendously over the first two days, let his ball-striking take over on Saturday. He finished second in the field in proximity to the hole and gained over two strokes on the field on approach shots in tough conditions. 

The longest of Thomas' six birdie putts on the day was from 10 feet, and most were within five. This is how most of the best ball-strikers win golf tournaments, and Thomas is no different. His putting kept him in the event early, and now he can close with his strongest suit.

The group he'll have to close against will be formidable, though. Rory McIlroy is 11 under and just three back, and Ian Poulter (-11) and Jason Day (-10) are lingering as well. Sunday should rock with some fantastic personalities (and golfers) atop a stacked leaderboard as we close out the final WGC of the 2017-18 season.

Here are four more takeaways from Saturday's third round.

1. Rory is hanging: It hasn't been the horse race we usually see from McIlroy when he wins golf tournaments, but he's hung tough with long par putts and no bogeys over his last 26 holes. A McIlroy-Thomas shootout on a Sunday in the week before a major championship is as good an opening act as we could ask for, and I'm fired up to watch these duel for this title in the final round.

2. Fowler's weird event: Rickie Fowler has easily had the strangest first three days of anyone in this tournament. After shooting a 63 on Thursday, he backed that up with a 74 on Friday and a 65 on Saturday when the course was playing as tough as it has all week. He went from the second-best round of the day to one of the worst to the best. All over the place. And yet ... he still has a chance to win this tournament with another strong showing on Sunday afternoon. After seeing Hideki Matsuyama shoot 61 in the final round last year to win, I'm not counting anyone (least of all Fowler) out of this tournament.

3. Jon Rahm is quietly great: He hasn't won a lot recently, but Rahm doesn't get talked about enough among the elite players in the world. He shot a 2-under 68 on Saturday and sits inside the top 10 with an outside shot at running up the leaderboard on Sunday and claiming the first WGC event of his career.

4. Jason Day is a blast: When he's in contention, there might not be a more fun player to watch than Day. It seems as if he holes out from all over the place and hits more putts than Ben Crenshaw in his prime. He did so again on Saturday en route to a 1-under 69.

CBS Sports was with you the entire way Saturday updating this story with the latest scores, analysis and highlights throughout Round 3 of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. If you are unable to view the live updates below, please click here.

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