PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Five years ago, when Justin Thomas entered the 2018 PGA Championship as the defending champion, he was still running as one of the top three players in the game and ranked among the nation’s top-ranked players. He established himself as a male golfer. world.
At that moment he briefly thought of elite golf.
Thomas is 25 years old and has won one major championship. This week, Thomas returns to his PGA Championship once again as the defending champion. But now things are different.
Since winning the PGA Championship last year in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Thomas has endured the bumpy, insane and erratic conditions that golf careers (both amateur and professional) have come to expect. . Since winning his second career major in 2022, he hasn’t finished first in any of the 20 events he’s competed in before coming to Oak Hill Country Club outside of Rochester, New York.
He missed his first appearance at the Masters Tournament in April. A month ago, he languished to tie for 60th in the Players Championship, which he won two years ago.
Out of 10 tournaments this year, he has only two top 10 finishes and only five outside the top 20. This isn’t unusual in his long professional golf career, but it hasn’t been easy for his father Thomas. His grandfather and grandfather were his PGA teaching pros, and the golf course brings that feeling to the fore.
The always outspoken Thomas admitted on Monday that his game was so battered last year that he teed up at several tournaments knowing in the back of his mind he couldn’t win. What does it feel like to be once rated the best golfer on the planet?
“It’s terrible,” Thomas replied. “The way I’ve described it over the last few months is that I’ve never felt so far and so close at the same time. It’s very difficult to explain. , is also a very difficult way to enter and try to win a golf tournament.”
But Thomas feels he may be fighting his way out of the darkness of golf in recent weeks. He finished tied for 14th at the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour this month with three rounds under par. He learned a new system of putting. It’s complicated, but he said it made reading the greens a lot easier (sounds like golf, right?). Nonetheless, he sees progress in his putting.
Perhaps most importantly, he enlisted other golfers to help him because the sport was too difficult to manage on his own.
For example, Thomas played an 18-hole practice round with Max Houma on Monday. Max Houma, who is currently ranked No. 6 in the world, once seemed to have missed a chance to make a living as a golfer — about the same time as Thomas — and won his first major title.
In 2017, Homa failed to qualify for 15 out of 17 tournaments, missing out on the PGA Tour. In golf parlance, losing your Tour Card is called “losing your Tour Card”, which is a polite way of saying that you have been kicked out of golf’s top level for shoddy play.
The following year, Homa magically regained his Tour qualification, partly due to an improbable birdie on the last four holes of a minor league tour golf event. Since then, Homa has earned more than $21 million on his PGA Tour, with two of his six wins on the Tour coming in the last eight months.
On Monday, as Thomas was about to explain how he plans to battle his way back to the pinnacle of men’s golf, and how important it is to stay optimistic rather than pouty, he said: cites Homa as an example.
“No one is in a better position here than Max Houma,” Thomas said. “No other top player in the world has gone through what he has gone through in terms of having a tour card, losing a tour card and having to get it back, and becoming one of the top players in the world. not present.
“I’ve talked to him about it before because he said no one here knows how bad it can get.”
Thomas laughed. He didn’t mean to be too pessimistic about his recent slump. He is still the 13th ranked golfer in the world. Alternatively, he added: “It’s all relative, and it’s important to make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in.
“That way you can get out of it by just playing how to get out of it. Hit shots when you want to, putts when you need to, and your confidence will come back.” And I don’t even remember what I was thinking when I was depressed.”
But Thomas smiled. He didn’t just start his big stardom at his 25, he’s now a 30-year-old veteran. He knows he’s chosen a whimsical vocation.
“Like anything in golf, it’s easier said than done,” Thomas said.