As the PGA Tour gears up for their new season, I wanted to try and find a topic each week or give some perspective on the event that just took place.
The second week took place at TPC Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia as part of the wrap around season for the 2017 season. The defending champion Justin Thomas looked to defend his title after winning his first PGA Tour event here last year.
I do not know Justin Thomas personally, but he did play on the Web.com Tour in 2014 which was one of the years I caddied out there. Near the end of that season before the final round in Springfield, MO, I was cleaning some clubs by the practice area. I was standing there watching this kid hit bunker shots some 10-15 yards from me. I had no idea who this kid was but as I watched and listened to the shots he was hitting, I had this suspicion that this kid was a pretty good player. The sound made at impact was a very distinguishable sound and the action the ball had on the green was a direct result of that impact.
Now someone can say you really can’t know based on a few shots how good someone is. I do agree that is true but you can sure develop an opinion of a person’s game relatively quickly based on what you may see. The result for him that day was a final round 64 to finish T6. Up to that point he had made around $250,000 and was well on his way to the PGA Tour with a win being all his resume was missing.
One month later he had reached the winners circle in the Web.com Tour Finals on a tough golf course and it came as no surprise to me. Looking back on his Web.com Season, he probably played the most consistent out of anyone on that tour and the numbers prove it.
Fast forward two years and I bet he would consider his career so far to be a bit of an underachievement having won only two wins as of Sunday. To me it’s hard to believe that’s an underachievement but the standards these players have is very high and I bet my statement would be accurate if you asked him.
What tells me something about Justin Thomas is how he won his 2nd PGA Tour Event. In the 3rd round Saturday he started his back 9 with bogey-double bogey-bogey to push himself to (+4) for his round. Up until that point he had been leading after two rounds and was now going the complete opposite direction. To me what happened next has to show you something about what this kid has, not only physically, but mentally.
He birdied his last 5 holes to scrap out a (-1) 71 for his round and gave himself a chance on Sunday, which in my opinion is all you can ask for. He obviously rode some momentum and came out Sunday and birdied his first 4 out of 5 holes. Just 12 holes ago he was in serious trouble of possible being too far back but now found himself in the lead early on Sunday. I have always said it is the intangibles that make the difference and this was a prime example of that.
Starting any round 4 shots back requires two things to take place in order to win. You first need to play well and second you need to have some “help” from whoever is leading. If the individual leading plays really well then it’s almost impossible to climb far enough up to capture victory. The equation was set as he did what he needed to do and got some help from third round leader Anirban Lahiri, who made a 9 on his third hole of the final round. It’s one thing to get the help you need, but it’s another thing to take full advantage of it and that is what all of the best players do.
Justin Thomas carded 4 more birdies over his final 13 holes and turned a 4 shot deficit into a 4 shot victory. Justin ranked first in birdies for the week with 29, which means he birdied just over 40% of his holes! Over the first two events he leads the tour with 52 birdies, which is 11 more than the next closest competitor.
It’s safe to say this kid will be around a long time because he hits it far and has a great touch that makes a lot of birdies.