Ahead of PGA title defense, Justin Thomas turning a corner

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Thomas tends to show up at the big events.

His three most recent victories on the PGA Tour were last year’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills, the 2021 Players Championship and the event formerly called the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in 2020.

But he’s fallen short plenty of times since his second major victory last May. He has not seen the results he wanted to see.

Thomas might be turning a corner just in time to defend his PGA Championship title this week at Oak Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y.

“I’ve preached this to myself, I’m sure I’ve said it to y’all or I’ve said it to younger guys that ask: How you learn is failure and negatives, and I feel like I’ve had a great opportunity for a lot of learning the past, whatever, six months, couple months, this year,” Thomas said.

“I feel like I said it (last week) in Charlotte a little bit, I’m starting to see a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Thomas’ best result of the season was a fourth-place finish at the WM Phoenix Open. But he tied for 60th at the Players before missing the cut at the Masters, flaming out with a second-round 78.

His most recent event, the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago in Charlotte, proved more promising. Thomas tied for 14th and felt that he scored better than he was shooting.

“I birdied two of the last four holes and salvaged an under-par round on a tough golf course,” Thomas said. “Bones and I said on 18 green, this is the stuff that we haven’t been doing this year.”

“Bones” is Jim “Bones” Mackay, Thomas’ caddie since 2021. The longtime caddie for Phil Mickelson, Mackay has helped the fiery Thomas settle down and manage rounds better.

That includes last May, when Thomas shot a third-round 74 and finished Saturday seven shots off the pace of leader Mito Pereira of Chile. He leaned on Mackay before going out Sunday to post a 67 and win in a playoff.

“Whether it was I’m trying to win the golf tournament or shoot a couple under and finish third or fourth, whatever it is, it’s just I needed to be leaving on a lot more positive note and almost just go down there and just vent and just kind of get it out of me,” Thomas said. “That’s kind of when Bones told me, we’re doing a lot of great things, playing some really good golf, and you’re still a great player. Let’s not let one round change that. Yeah, it worked out well.”

The PGA Championship tees off Thursday.

–Field Level Media

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