"I couldn't control my shots in the first half and my putting was bad from the start".
Thomas, decked out in fluorescent pink trousers, was on the move quickly with a birdie-birdie start and had an even hotter finish to his front nine, carding birdies on four-of-five closing holes, including the last three to move to seven-under.
Satoshi Kodaira was tied for 35th place at 1-under 215 and Yusaku Miyazato shared 51st at 2-over 218. There will be lighter traffic on the leaderboard Sunday, as only six players will be within three strokes of Brian Harman's lead.
The 2015 U.S. Open champion was unable to recapture the magic this week, finishing one-over par for the tournament, but he liked what he saw from the new U.S. Open venue, Erin Hills.
Taking nothing away from 9-under par, 9-under is incredible with U.S. Open pressure.
The course received almost an inch of rain Friday night and into Saturday morning, so Thomas knew the 18th green was softer Saturday-and much more receptive to a 3-wood.
He made the eagle to get his name in the record book. Harman missed the cut in his previous two U.S. Opens.
Englishman Fleetwood looked set to be in the final group until he made a clumsy bogey at 18 on Saturday.
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What did seem outlandish was the sheer scorecard of it, for in becoming the fifth 63 in U.S. Open history, and the 29th in major-tournament history, it knocked aside a legend.
And after Haotong Li made a small piece of history Friday by surviving the halfway cut at the U.S. Open, he closed out a frustrating third round with a quadruple-bogey at the par-5 18th on Saturday.
Only McIlroy and Tiger Woods had previously finished double digits under par in the game's toughest test, while no runner-up had ever managed such a total.
Koepka also reached the green in two on the 667-yard closing hole for a two-putt birdie and a 68. Fowler shot a 73 and was still very much in the hunt at a second straight major.
And two-time victor Ernie Els, who was two under at the halfway stage, dropped five shots in his opening six holes on Saturday. "I get a lot of experience in the last couple of days", Li added. It's the best I've struck the ball in a long time. "I know it's not going to be an easy day, but I'm looking forward to getting the job done".
Thomas finished in style, and it had nothing to do with his pink trousers. He had 310 yards to the hole when he hit 3-wood that could have led to big trouble if he went too far long or left.
"Oh, gosh, Jimmy", Thomas said his caddie, Jimmy Johnson. Still, this was a pretty good weekend for the 30-year-old Harman, who was playing in just his eighth major. "I think it's an awesome course", he said. The geometric wonder of a birdie putt on No. 5 cured a peeved feeling - the ball inexplicably had stopped on the fringe beforehand - until he sent it sideways, perfectly reading a break that curved right toward a loopy happiness.
Chez Reavie had an incredible round of 65, but he was not the only person to shoot that score with Hideki Matsuyama showing his class and the world number four is just two shots back now - the Japanese player was tipped by the GM tipster before the tournament.
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