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TULSA, Okla. -- Justin Thomas is one of the most physically gifted professional golfers in the world. On Friday at the 2022 PGA Championship, though, he shot 67 with his mind. With intermittent blasts of wind pounding down the plains in Round 2, J.T. calmly played his way to a 3-under number for the second consecutive day, taking over the clubhouse lead from Rory McIlroy by a stroke as the afternoon wave got underway.

Thomas was nearly perfect in what could be the toughest conditions of the entire week. He made just one bogey going out and birdied his last with a walked-in putt that screamed, "I want the final pairing on Saturday afternoon." Like McIlroy on Thursday, Thomas did not make anything worse than 4 all day. In a normal round, that's impressive. On a major championship day when the wind is alternately whipping and laying down, it's unfathomable.

"Yeah, very pleased. I felt I played -- although I played solid yesterday, I played really, really well today," said Thomas. "The conditions were obviously very difficult. I stayed very patient, tried to get in my own little world and get in a zone and just tried to execute each shot the best I could. ... I felt we did a great job of that and am glad to have a good round to show for it."

The often-emotional Thomas was present, placid and precise throughout. Normally lightning fast with his play, he and caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay often labored for several minutes over what style of shot to hit into Southern Hills' cavernous greens. On a day when just keeping your ball on the proper line was the ultimate battle, Thomas somehow hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation. That takes skill, of course, but it also takes tremendous decision-making and a refusal to be baited into trying to win the tournament with a single swing.

This has often been J.T.'s downfall in recent majors. He'll play tremendously for 30 straight holes before making a cataclysmic mistake. He's avoided every pitfall at Southern Hills so far this week, and watching Bones steer him around a major-worthy golf course like this one has been a true delight. It's golf at it's highest level.

"I have confidence that I can execute still and hit the shots that I want," said Thomas. "I would like to hope a little bit of it is skill, that I've worked hard enough that I'm good enough to be able to execute that kind of stuff."

The intellectual prowess is not the only thing that's popped, either. Thomas changed speeds and painted corners all day. Multiple times he went to that low, cutting drive that almost seems to fold over itself to find the proper side of the fairway. It was as creatively conspicuous as it was astonishing to watch.


Thomas' willingness and ability to shape every shot in the arsenal and bend it to his will at this course has helped him rise to the top of the leaderboard. He exudes confidence drawing irons up and daring the Oklahoma wind to do its darnedest. He's happy to fling cuts up around trees or bends. He knows he has the stuff it takes to win here. 

The odds suggest that's more than possible, too.

Of the seven major championships held here at sprawling Southern Hills, all seven winners held at least a share of the 36-hole lead. Historically, this has not been a great site to be hunting. You want to be the one being hunted. And with a one-stroke lead in the clubhouse, Thomas has put himself in prime position to potentially be precisely that.

"I feel like I'm playing well," said Thomas. "We're halfway through, so it's still a long way from home, but I'm very, very pleased with where everything is at and the frame of mind and state of mind that I'm in."