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Thomas Surpasses Expectations

by Ron Green Jr. - December 04, 2017

In the warm, fresh sunshine of a new year, Jordan Spieth stood in the Maui glow and contemplated the long-term impact of Justin Thomas’ victory in the 2017 SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua.

“It’s potentially the floodgates opening,” Spieth said, perhaps not fully imagining his own prescience.

What Thomas and his deep well of talent had hinted at in previous years came into full bloom in 2017 when he was the PGA Tour’s most dominant player, earning him a number of awards including Global Golf Post male Player of the Year.

While Spieth and Dustin Johnson had seasons worthy of player-ofthe-year consideration, Thomas made the decision easy when he locked down the FedEx Cup in Atlanta in late September, capping a true breakout season.

In terms of pure achievement, here’s what Thomas did during the PGA Tour’s 2016-17 season.

He won five times, capturing the CIMB Classic, the SBS Tournament of Champions, the Sony Open in Hawaii, the PGA Championship and the Dell Technologies Championship.

Along the way, Thomas shot 59 in the Sony Open on his way to setting the Tour’s all-time 36-hole and 72-hole scoring records.

He also became the first player in U.S. Open history to shoot 9-under par in a round, doing it with his third-round 63 at Erin Hills.

Upon receiving the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year award in a vote of his peers, Thomas acknowledged exceeding his immediate goals.

“It’s kind of crazy, especially for someone with the expectations I’ve always had for myself. It never really entered my mind winning it. It was something I think that the first thing that kind of came to mind is hopefully try to win the FedEx Cup or this or that, and then with that probably comes a great chance of winning player of the year,” Thomas said.

“As weird as it was, it just wasn’t something that at the beginning of the year, ‘OK, this is a huge goal of mine, this is what I want to do,’ or I need to win or do these certain accomplishments to win it until actually the year was over, and I was like, ‘Wow, I actually have a good chance of doing this.’

“It’s something I know how hard it is to do because of how the deep the Tour is right now and how many great players there are and how guys are winning three, four, five times a year every year, and it’s something that’s going to be tough to continue or tough to replicate in terms of this year. But I’m definitely going to give it my best.”

Early in 2017, Thomas put a list of 13 season goals in his phone. Some he accomplished with relative ease, such as qualifying for the Tour Championship, winning at least once and making the Presidents Cup team.

Others, such as winning a major championship and picking up at least .25 strokes gained putting were more challenging.

Ultimately, Thomas checked almost every box. His only misses? He wanted to average under par on par-3 holes but narrowly missed and he was not among the top 30 in scrambling.

For all the things Thomas did, winning the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow was transformative in that it put him in the category of major championship winners. Thomas had a chance to win the U.S. Open at Erin Hills but couldn’t keep up with Brooks Koepka.

PGA Tour Wins
Event
Score
To Par
CIMB Classic
64-66-71-64–265
-23
SBS Tournament of Champions
67-67-67-69–270
-22
Sony Open in Hawaii
59-64-65-65–253
-27
PGA Championship
73-66-69-68–276
-8
Dell Technologies Championship
71-67-63-66–267
-17

In a Sunday battle in Charlotte with Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen, among others, Thomas shot a final-round 68 to win by two strokes. If a single swing defined Thomas’ season, it was the 6-iron shot he hit into the green at Quail Hollow’s dangerous par-3 17th, setting up a short birdie on a hole known for burying dreams.

“Probably the best shot I’ve ever hit in my life under those circumstances,” Thomas said.

It wasn’t the only memorable shot Thomas hit. Chasing history at Erin Hills, Thomas hit a spectacular 3-wood of more than 300 yards into Erin Hills’ 18th green, setting up the history-making eagle that capped his 63.

“That was pretty sweet,” Thomas said that day.

Events
25
In Money
19
Wins
5
Top 3s
6
Top 10s
12
Stroke Average
69.36

It was a sweet year, the sweetest of a still-blossoming career. In many ways, Thomas is the embodiment of the modern golfer. Though he weighs less than 150 pounds, Thomas is among the game’s longest hitters and he plays aggressively, chasing flags and birdies and trophies. Low scores don’t scare him. They entice him.

Thomas is still just 24. He’s just getting started.

If there is a question, it’s what’s next for him.

“You have to have probably two to four goals that are very achievable that you should achieve, and two to four goals that are in grasp but they’ll be tough, and then two to four goals that are maybe a little bit out of the realm and that are going to be very difficult to do but are somewhat achievable if you have a great year like I did this year,” Thomas said.

“That’s something I’ll probably spend some time talking to Mr. (Jack) Nicklaus about or Tiger (Woods) because those are guys – those are the only people – or even Jordan (Spieth), those are the only people I know that have had such success in one season multiple times, and they’ve had to deal with resetting their goals and re-evaluating.

“I’m just going to have to figure out how to do so.”

Winnings
$9,921,560 (€8,380,742)

 


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