Eight-time WGC-Bridgestone champion Tiger Woods dropped three shots after a 73 to plummet to three under.
Of course, a four-shot win at Firestone and a first World Golf Championship victory will make that angst go away quickly.
Woods, an eight-times victor at Firestone, electrified the gallery with three early birdies but in the end managed only a middling 68 on a course that was there for the taking, with soft greens allowing players to fire aggressively at the pins.
Thomas was far from his best as he played the opening 12 holes in level par and both Stanley and Jason Day eventually closed to within two shots, only to promptly bogey the next two holes.
Playing two groups in front of Perry, Short got within two shots with three holes to go, but Perry made a birdie putt at 16 for a three-shot cushion.
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Thomas started the final round with a three-shot cushion and was never seriously challenged, a one-under-par 69 more than enough to clinch his first World Golf Championships event and ninth PGA Tour title.
The impromptu meeting was much more than simply a pep talk, the reigning PGA Tour player of the year doesn't need that.
"My irons, I just tended to hit exactly where we were picking the spots and I holed a few putts", Fleetwood said.
"It's great we keep getting in position", he said. The last player to win two of these in a row is (you guessed it) Woods in 2006 and 2007. "You just don't know if they're ever going to see me win if I don't win here, so it was pretty cool to get it done".
"For sure, especially contending on a golf course like (Firestone)", Leishman said.
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Thomas, 25, took a three-shot lead into Sunday's final round of this year's tournament.
"Things could have certainly gone better", Woods said. "And then I had some putts where, you know, I had some good looks at it to turn it around, build some momentum, I didn't make anything".
The US PGA Championship - the final major of the year - begins on Thursday.
He said the victory was particularly special given his grandfather, who played in the 1960 US PGA Championship at Firestone, was in the gallery.
Their relationship goes back more than a decade, back to junior golf days and at rival colleges, where each could hold their own share of bragging rights.
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Englishman Fleetwood carded seven birdies to match his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, a seven-under-par 63, while American Thomas drove the ball superbly for a 64 that included seven birdies in a 10-hole stretch.