Justin Thomas discovered his kind with ‘a ballstriking clinic’ on the Gamers

8: 55 PM ET

  • Bob HarigESPN Senior Creator


    • Senior golf creator for ESPN.com
    • Lined golf for larger than 20 years
    • Earned Evans Scholarship to attend on Indiana College

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The ball appeared destined for the water. The overall physique language on this planet did not seem treasure it was going to commerce that. Justin Thomas tried anyway. After which, a shot aimed too a methods left someway discovered land, rolling alongside the railroad ties that body the pond for one different 65 yards sooner than coming to leisure safely within the 18th fairway.

Thomas pulled his cap over his eyes and staggered towards his caddie, Jimmy Johnson, incandescent that calamity had been evaded.

It was extra reduction than pleasure. That, too, was the emotion Thomas carried with him after the ultimate hole at TPC Sawgrass and into the celebration of a 1-shot victory over Lee Westwood on the Avid gamers Championship.

For presumably essentially the most basic time in his educated life, Thomas, 27, needed to deal with adversity this 12 months, a few of it self-inflicted. He aged an anti-homosexual slur, caught on microphone, in January on the Sentry Match of Champions. One amongst his sponsors, Ralph Lauren, dropped him. His grandfather Paul Thomas, a protracted-established Kentucky membership educated, handed away last month. And in February, Tiger Woods, with whom Thomas has develop into cease, was in a extreme accident and suffered basic accidents.

“Or now not it has been a crappy couple months,” acknowledged Thomas, who shot 64-68 on the weekend to buy for the 14th time on the PGA Tour. “I’ve had stuff occur in my life I by no formulation perception I’ll possess occur. Shedding Grandpa was terrible. Having to play a spherical of golf [at the Waste Management Phoenix Open after his grandfather died] was terrible — and now not enjoying nicely. It was a lot. And it took a lot on me mentally.

“If I wanted to succeed in to these tournaments and possess a change for buy, then I wanted to suck it up and achieve over it. If I wanted to throw a pity achieve collectively for myself or absolutely really feel sorry for myself, there might be not any intention to repeat up. I can stop dwelling except I absolutely really feel treasure I am inspiring. I felt treasure I used to be in a upright enough head dwelling the place I might presumably presumably play. I right wasn’t enjoying nicely. After which after I wasn’t enjoying nicely, it was roughly snowballing.”

Probably the most basic two rounds of this match adopted a an identical sample. Thomas was begin air the lop line by means of 27 holes. He made 4 birdies over his last 9 holes Friday to achieve himself into the weekend. That location up a Third-round 64 whereby he had an eagle, seven birdies and a bogey. Aloof, he entered Sunday’s last spherical 3 strokes within the abet of Westwood.

By plot of eight holes Sunday, he was 1 over for the spherical no matter hitting each fairway and inexperienced. Lastly, regardless that, putts began shedding and he carried out a four-gap stretch basis on the ninth in 5 beneath to favor the lead.

“It was a ballstriking well being middle,” Johnson acknowledged.

His father and coach, Mike Thomas, noticed one factor acquainted in his son.

“That appeared treasure a spherical from the worn Justin Thomas,” Mike Thomas acknowledged. “Legitimate ballstriking the heck out of it. If he had had that putter rocking, he’d possess gained by 6 or 7.”

Or now not it has been a grand time for Mike Thomas, too. It was his father who handed away on Feb. 6. He noticed the fallout from his son’s spend of an anti-homosexual slur. Then got here the emotions from Woods’ accident.

Mike Thomas had peril discovering the phrases when speaking of his father’s lack of life, a number of instances stopping to invent himself. Paul Thomas had an impression on Justin’s sport, too, as “he had relatively lots of of tales,” Mike Thomas acknowledged. “For incredible, in his later years, we had been listening to them for the seventh or eighth instances — or twentieth time. Nonetheless Justin constantly most popular to take heed to them.”

Thomas perception to be now not enjoying the ultimate spherical in Phoenix following his grandfather’s lack of life.

“The hardest spherical of golf I ever carried out,” Thomas acknowledged.

He shot 1-over 72 that Sunday and tied for thirteenth as Brooks Koepka gained the match.

“I do know Justin perception to be now not enjoying, however Dad would possess wished him to,” Mike Thomas acknowledged.

Thomas omitted the lop on the Genesis Invitational, right a few days sooner than Woods’ accident. He carried out tied for fifteenth on the WGC-Workday Championship the next week.

“There’s these that possess grand extra issues than we discontinue, alternatively it was absolutely his first time dealing with shedding a most popular one after which there was the backlash from the completely different stuff,” Mike Thomas acknowledged. “He was struggling mentally.”

Thomas did not expose many dinky print, however he did notify he has been involved with Woods. He acknowledged he bought encouragement from him — right as Bryson DeChambeau has from Woods, too.

“I used to be replaying what [Woods] advised me a lot in my head,” Thomas acknowledged. “He likes to current me relatively lots of of effort, particularly when he is now not proper right here … We’re all pulling for him. And I am so blissful to take heed to the whole thing has been going nicely with him.

“Nonetheless section of me desires he was proper right here so I might presumably presumably rub it in his face a dinky bit extra. Nonetheless no, I am blissful and I am hoping he is blissful. I constantly treasure his wait on.”

Little doubt Thomas will hear from Woods about that last tee shot. The 5-wood diagram began a dinky too cease to the water and someway evaded it. Thomas acknowledged it was “50-50” within the air whether or not he perception he’d peek a splash.

“That is the roughly stuff that occurs must you buy tournaments,” Thomas acknowledged. “You achieve breaks treasure that. It was too cease for comfort, to thunder the least.”

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