Justin Thomas Searches Through His Past For His Future
20 Sep,2023 Credit : Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

By Tim Liotta


Justin Thomas Searches Through His Past For His Future

Justin Thomas reminds us that the game of golf is uncompromising when measuring its champions, and the battle to attain or regain that level of command is mercilous.

Remember, Thomas a two-time major champion who, six years ago, was the No. 1 player in the world, a standard that makes a fifth-place finish in a PGA Tour event only a step forward from where he's been the past few months. 

"The fact that I feel like I have been held, not only because of myself but everybody else's expectations of me, held to a high standard, that clearly means that somebody thinks something decent of me as a golfer," Thomas said prior to the Fortinet Championship. "So that's a good way to look at it. 

"That's pretty much what I tried to do at the end of the year is look at everything as a positive. Yeah, I mean, it was never near as bad as it always seemed like it was, and yeah, I'm excited for these next couple months and tournaments here and there that I'm playing in and once we get rolling in '24. 

Justin Thomas's Major Championship Record

Thomas was addressing the questions he's faced regarding his play since this year's PGA Championship. Nine tournaments, five missed cuts, including the U.S. Open by 8 shots and the Open Championship by 12. Each included a round in which he was unable to break 80. 

Question - Because you had so much success, two PGAs and you're on the curve up, something like that happens, obviously we, and - the question is what's wrong, and you get that a lot, all athletes do when they have a problem. Was that a major concern where people kept asking you, hey, what's the matter, what's the matter?

"Concern, no," Thomas responded. "Don't take this the wrong way: Annoying, yes.

"It is, and again, it's not that big a deal. It wasn't that bad. It just was, you know, like you said, I was very fortunate to play some really, really good golf. And I played some really good golf last year, I just didn't have those couple wins in a year. I didn't finish off a couple tournaments I felt like I should have. It's a very, very, very fine line out here and I just was on the other side of that line one year.

"Yeah, when you're constantly being told, being reminded, it's pretty easy to convince 

yourself that you're not doing things that well, but I'm very lucky to have a great support system and great team around me to remind me that that's not the case."

Unfortunately, Thomas was doing dis-service to just how good he was from the 2016-17 season through the 2021-2022 season, winning two majors, 13 events total, in 130 starts. 

Thomas finished T10 or better, 59 times, and was T25 or better 98 times, or better than 75 percent of the time. He missed 17 cuts. 

And he was a fixture in major championships. In the 21 majors he played from 2017 through 2022, Thomas finished T25 or better 13 times, T12 or better eight times. 

Thomas played himself into contention in Napa, CA, during the Fortinet, posting rounds of 69-67-65, tied for second with 18 holes to play two shots back of the tournament's eventual winner, Sahith Theegala. 

Asked what was most encouraging about his play in the first three rounds, Thomas responded: "Just that I'm in contention. 

"I feel like I didn't play well Thursday. I just felt like I was not very sharp today in terms of my actual golf game. I've hit some -- felt like I had a handful of wedges that I should have hit closer, a couple putts that I feel like I could have hit a little bit better, and I shot 7 under. 

"I mean, that's more encouraging than anything. I think that's better than going out there and playing great and, you know, not missing a shot and shooting 7 under or 6 under even. To me, being in contention with I feel like the golf that I've had this week is more encouraging than anything."

Sunday's final round was not what Thomas hoped for. He made four bogeys on the front side, even hitting a ball out-of-bounds. After making the turn three-over, an eagle on 12, and a birdie on the final hole got him to even-par, but six shots back of Theegala. 

The fact that Thomas did not meet with the media after Sunday's final round could indicate how disappointed he must have been. His willingness throughout his struggles to step up and discuss his attempts to regain his previous form has been admirable.  

Thomas met with the media prior to the Fortinet Championship, the final PGA Tour event prior to the Ryder Cup, and explained what he is working on with his swing in hopes of regaining the form that placed him fourth in 2017-18 and second in 2018-19 in Strokes Gained: Approach.

"I'm just honestly trying to get it ... in similar positions that I had it when I was swinging and hitting it my best, I feel like 2017, 2018, 2019 I guess my best ball-striking years and when I was winning the most golf tournaments. 

"I had a lot more width then and ... my swing was a little bit shorter. I felt like because of that, it was in a consistent, way more consistent repeatable place coming down. I just got away from some of that. 

"There were some things that I was trying to change that I ended up basically overdoing or overexaggerating too early and it just got me in some tough spots. I felt like the club was getting too steep going back and then I had to reroute it going down. 

"I said last year I feel like I have really good hands that I can make that work for a day or two, but that's not exactly realistic to do for four days let alone trying to win golf tournaments at the highest level."

Justin Thomas Swings A Driver In 2017

Thomas has also made a change regarding his work on the putting green.

"John Graham and I are not working together anymore," said Thomas. "... I felt like we had gotten to a point where everything was fundamentally or mechanically or on the putting green was as good as it could get. Basically, what I told him was he can't go out and make the putts for me, I have to figure that out, and that's something only I can do.

"It's something where I grew up just going out and practicing and hitting putts and figuring out how to get it in the hole. I didn't necessarily care how it looked ... all that mattered was getting the ball in the hole as fast as I can, and that's more what I want to do."

Thomas was also very forthcoming regarding his relationship with his team, and how he has worth with his father who has been his swing coach all his life. 

"In terms of my dad, the owning and accountability is just the part that I feel like I lost a little bit in myself," Thomas said. "I think the Wyndham was a big week for me because I was by myself and I - I've always taken great pride in being able to adjust both in practice but also in tournament play on the run if things aren't going well. 

"I feel like I've been really good at figuring it out and making changes on the course and just kind of tweaking and changing things until something clicks. I just feel like I lost that a little bit. ...

"I am very lucky to have a team that's very, very involved, but I just think for me personally, I had them - they were there too often to where I became dependent on them and then I just lost all ownership, all accountability to where when things were going wrong I was looking to them to answer the questions instead of I'm the one that needs to figure it out at some point. 

"So that's just kind of - it's more like how I feel like it was in 2017, 2018 when I was playing my best golf. ... 

"Nothing is as extreme as it is as much as it's just me being me again and trying to just dig it out of the dirt and take ownership and take accountability and try to figure out how to shoot as low as I can again."