04 April 2017
Resurrection of the “Future Superstar”
Justin Thomas began his year by attracting a lot of attention. Collecting two PGA Tour titles in two consecutive weeks was a solid answer to the rising doubts of commentators who'd previously pegged him as the next golf superstar.
Despite demonstrating his talent and achieving success as an amateur, Thomas has seemingly struggled to survive in the professional arena. Turning pro in 2013, it was 2015 when he finally secured his PGA Tour Card. His blazing arrival to the Tour wasn’t to be; he finished the season in 38th position on the Tour money list and with lackluster finishes in tournaments, the highest being fourth-place ties in the Sanderson Farms Championship and the Quicken Loans National. In stark contrast, Jordan Spieth, whom Thomas had grown close to and had competed against for several years, had one of the greatest seasons of all Tour players in 2015: winning the Masters, the U.S. Open, and taking home more than $23 million in earnings.
The success of Spieth drove Thomas forwards and today he looks to be on his own rapid rise at last. This doesn’t come as a surprise to those who know him best. Thomas has joined the ranks of the talented golfers touted as leading the sport’s transition from the Tiger Woods era: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Spieth, and Rickie Fowler. We looked into Justin Thomas’s life to find out about his motivations and experiences:
Going back to the start, how did Thomas get into golf?
He picked up a golf club at 18 months old — a MacGregor persimmon 2-wood which was cut down to child size. As soon as he could walk, Thomas would tag along whenever his father, Mike Thomas, would practice. His father often asked him to go to the swimming pool or to play basketball, but Thomas was not interested. All he wanted to do was hit balls.
Thomas had a lot of good years as an amateur. What were his biggest achievements?
In 2009, at the age of 16, Thomas succeeded in making the cut at the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship. The next year, he finished second in the United States Junior Amateur.
As a freshman in 2011-12, Thomas became the first player at the University of Alabama to win his first career start. He captured five more titles that season and was named college golf’s player of the year. The following season, he helped lead Alabama to a national championship before going on to represent the United States against Europe in the Walker Cup, amateur golf’s version of the Ryder Cup. Thomas left behind his amateur status in 2013, earning his card for the Web.com Tour via qualifying school in December.
Thomas’s father keeps a collection of mementos of Thomas’s success. What are they?
He has a rack containing 129 golf balls. Each ball represents one of Thomas’s wins, starting in elementary school. In a nearby box, there are balls from his holes-in-one. The rack is getting five new additions: two balls from his victories at the SBS Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open, and another three balls from his recent achievements of a 15-foot eagle putt on the final hole of his opening round, a 36-hole scoring record (123), and a 72-hole record (253) Thomas set. The rack is located in the golf shop at Harmony Landing Country Club in Goshen, Kentucky, USA.
Jack Nicklaus helped Thomas with his confidence. What did Nicklaus do?
When Thomas’s frustration levels rose due to missing opportunities to win, he decided to take Nicklaus up on his offer to call if he ever needed anything. Nicklaus invited Thomas to his home in Palm Beach, Florida. The two talked for nearly three hours and there is one lesson in particular which Thomas always remembers.
“I had the same game plan during a tournament when I was playing bad as when I playing good: being just as aggressive, hitting at every pin,” Thomas explains. “When you’re hitting it bad, you can’t do that. When I’m playing bad, I need to just hit the green. I remember that talk a lot.”
Finishing with one of his most recent milestones, winning the 2017 Tournament of Champions, how did he feel regarding the victory?
“It’s definitely the best of my career,” said Thomas, as quoted by New York Times. “I definitely haven’t shown the world my best golf. I haven’t even shown the world great golf, or consistent, great golf.”
11 QUICK FACTS
Hidden Talent: Fishing
Favorite course: Cypress Point
Dream foursome: Dad, Tiger Woods, and Jack Nicklaus
Favorite golfer(s): Tiger Woods and J.B. Holmes
Superstitions: I always put three coins in my pocket and if I'm putting bad, I'll change to a different three coins
Holes-in-one: 17 – I have all the balls in a box in my dad's office at the pro shop
Best shot you've ever hit: First hole-in-one when I was 6 – driver from 144 yards
Lowest round ever: 64 (4 times)
Favorite non-golf athlete: Michael Jordan
Best thing about traveling to play golf: Playing amazing courses, doing it with all of my friends from around the world, and having a blast doing it
Favorite place visited for a tournament: France, for the Evian Junior Masters in the summer of 2007 (represented U.S.A. along with teammates Jordan Spieth, Grace Na and Erynne Lee)
Born: April 29, 1993
Turned Pro: 2013
College: University of Alabama
2014 Natinwide Children’s Hospital Championship+
2015 CIMB Classic#
2016 CIMB Classic (2)#
2017 SBS Tournament of Championship#
Sony Open in Hawaii#
+ Web.com Tour
# PGA Tour
WHAT’S IN THOMAS’S BAG
DRIVER: Titleist 917D3 (9.5 degrees
FAIRWAY WOODS: Titleist 917F3 (15 degrees), 915Fd (18 degrees)
IRONS: Titleist 716 MB (4-9)
WEDGES: Titleist Vokey Design SM6 Raw (46 degrees bent to 47.5); Titleist Vokey Design SM5 Raw (52 degrees bent to 52.5, 56 degrees), and Titleist Vokey Design SM6 Raw (60 degrees)
PUTTER: Scotty Cameron for Titleist Futura X5
BALL: Titleist Pro V1x
SHOES: FootJoy Icon MyJoys
GLOVE: FootJoy Pure Touch Limited