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Fast Lane

by Mike Cullity

A major-championship season that featured two compelling final-round duels (García vs. Rose, Spieth vs. Kuchar) and a Brooks Koepka tour de force culminated with a Wanamaker scramble in the auto-racing hotbed of Charlotte, North Carolina.

For a while on Sunday, the PGA Championship resembled a stock-car tussle. Early in the final nine, five players were vying atop the leaderboard. But come pedal-to-the-metal time, Justin Thomas reigned.

The 24-year-old Kentuckian, the son and grandson of PGA professionals, capped a breakout season by winning his first major. With a closing 68 at Quail Hollow Club, Thomas zoomed past third-round leader Kevin Kisner, world No. 3 Hideki Matsuyama and Texas underdog Chris Stroud while holding several other contenders at bay, among them fast-closing Francesco Molinari, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler.

After winning in October in Malaysia, Thomas took Hawaii by storm in January, capturing the SBS Tournament of Champions and Sony Open in Hawaii, where he opened with a 59. At the U.S. Open, Thomas torched Erin Hills with a third-round 63 that left him one stroke off the 54-hole lead. But after he closed with a disappointing 75, some might have questioned his major mettle.

With his performance Sunday, Thomas silenced any doubters.

As last week began, the talk centered around Jordan Spieth, who had a chance to complete the career Grand Slam, and Rory McIlroy, who had won twice and lost a playoff previously at Quail Hollow. Neither was a factor, as Spieth failed to break 70 in any of the four rounds and Mcllroy sputtered. Though McIlroy saved face with a Sunday 68, the four-time major winner suggested he soon might shut it down to ensure his nagging rib injury fully heals.


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