When he first surfaced on Tour, Justin Thomas was known more for being Jordan Spieth’s buddy then a top golfer in his own right. On Sunday, he stood on the 18th green at Kapalua having just won his third tournament before the age of 23.
Thomas is amongst the new group of young guns on Tour that bomb the ball off the tee and are constantly giving off that “don’t give a bleep” attitude. If he wasn’t already, Thomas definitely threw his name into the hat of young great golfers on Tour Sunday when he held off Hideki Matsuyama for the second time in just three weeks, arguably the hottest golfer on the planet at the moment.
Thomas is one of many who grew up in the Tiger era and has fully embraced Tiger’s “expect to win every time” mentality. He now finds himself in the same company as Woods, becoming the fist golfer since Big Cat did it in 2013 to win two of his first four events of the season.
“Changes things going forward because I know I’m coming back here next year, so I couldn’t be more excited about that,” Thomas said.
Thomas sure didn’t make it easy on himself coming down the stretch though. He had what seemed like a comfortable five shot lead at the turn, then he got a little wobbly. On the 14th, he couldn’t match Matsuyama’s eagle, making birdie and losing a stroke. Then on 15, he hit what he called a “fat-hooked” 4-iron into a hazard on his way to a double bogey. Suddenly the lead was down to just one shot. That one stroke lead held up until 17 when Matsuyama bogeyed and Thomas birdied, giving him a three shot lead and the win.
For Thomas, it was much more than just a PGA Tour win. He proved to himself, and others, that he could withstand the pressures of contending. Even after his double on 15, he remained calm.
“He didn’t even flinch. He didn’t say anything, he just keeps playing now,” Thomas’s caddie Jimmy Johnson said. “A year and a half ago he would have kept playing but there would have been more turmoil in his head. His head was clear the whole day.”
Thomas and his caddie weren’t the only ones that saw his win yesterday as a defining moment. His good buddy Jordan Spieth also saw the win as something that could potentially open up the floodgates.
“I think it’s potentially floodgates opening,” Spieth said. “The guy hits it forever. He’s got a really, really nifty short game. He manages the course well … I’m really excited for him. It’s awesome. He’s going to be tough to beat next week, too.”
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