Justin Thomas aims to defends his PGA Championship title in a new way-News

ROCHESTER, NY – Almost a year ago, after all Justin Thomas he equaled the 54-hole greatest comeback in PGA Championship history by chasing Chile Pear Myth from shooting 7 back to win his second Wanamaker Trophy, he talked about what ending a nearly five-year drought without a major victory in the tournament would mean for his career.

“When it happens you think it’s going to happen the next time you play – you really do,” Thomas said. “When things go right, especially in this game, it’s easy. The ball bounces right, putts go in, guys do what you need them to do on the board — things happen.

“But when it doesn’t go well, you don’t know if and when it will happen again, and for five years I’ve had a lot of those moments. I’m very happy to be back here now.”

In the 11 months since Thomas won Will Zalatoris in a three-hole contest to win the PGA Championship for the second time, few things seem to be going right. Balls are bounced wrong, putts are missed and stars like Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy they passed him on the boards.

Thomas, 30, arrived at Oak Hill Country Club this week as a defender. But the 15-time PGA Tour winner and world No. 1 golfer admitted Monday that he has played several tournaments recently without believing he would win. This has been one of the most frustrating things about what seems to be a popular project.

Thomas’ victory at the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the only time he has won on his previous 45 PGA Tour dates since the 2021 WGC-Dell Match Play.

It’s very bad, “said Thomas. “I mean, the way I explained for a few months I have never heard so far and so close at the same time. This is a very difficult thing to explain, and it is also a very difficult way to try to compete and win. golf tournament.”

Like everything in golf, Thomas’s challenges require imagination. He’s made just 19 starts since winning the 2022 PGA Championship, but most of them haven’t been good. He has not played well in three majors since then, tying for 37th at the US Open, for 53rd at the 150th Open Championship in St. Andrews and missed the first cut at the Masters in April. He also tied for 60 at the Players Championship, a tournament he won in April 2021.

In what may be the most memorable moment of his downfall, Thomas missed the 18th hole at Augusta National Golf Club which put him outside the cut line. He posted a 6-over 42 on the back nine, after posting bogeys on three of the last four holes in difficult conditions. After missing a putt on the 18th, Thomas looked up at the cold, falling rain in disbelief. The lasting image of the forgettable week was Thomas standing under an umbrella, his arms crossed and looking disgusted.

“It’s very disappointing,” Thomas said. “Like everything in golf, it’s easier to say than to think, to think, to think that I will be good at this and that. At the end of the day, after a few months or six months. , it doesn’t matter, where you are not as good as you feel and not be it’s the finals where you feel like you deserve or don’t win the race like you should, it’s easy to get angry and understand what it’s like. go the wrong way.”

Thomas, whose father, Mike, and grandfather, Paul, were PGA club professionals, seems to always be complaining. His genuine and unsettling emotions on the course make for great performances, but they also get him into hot water from time to time. Thomas can sometimes be honest to a fault, and his press conference at Oak Hill Country Club on Monday was another example.

When a reporter asked Thomas if he felt like he was falling, he said, “Right now? No. A few weeks ago or a month ago, maybe, yeah.” Did Thomas show up at the races this year wondering if he could win?

“Yes,” said Thomas.

“Like everything else, I’ve preached to myself, I’m sure I’ve talked to all of you or I’ve said to young guys who ask, how you learn and fail and shit, and I feel like “I’ve had a great opportunity to learn a lot in the past, whatever, six months, a few months , this year,” Thomas said.

Max Homa is one player who knows all too well what Thomas has endured over the past few months. In 2017, Homa lost his PGA Tour card by missing the cut in 15 of 17 tournaments. The following year, Homa had to make birdies on the last four holes to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour event. If he hadn’t, he would have missed the final and been sent back to Q-school. Homa returned to the PGA Tour.

Homa, ranked No. 6 in the world, has won six times on the PGA Tour and has earned more than $21 million since his comeback.

Over the past few months, Thomas has leaned on Homa for words of wisdom as he tries to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

“There’s nobody in a better position than Max Homa out here,” Thomas said. “No other top player in the world has gone through what he’s gone through to have a credit card, lose your travel card, pay it back and become one of the top players in the world. I’ve talked to him about it before because he’s like, no one knows for sure what it will be like.”

Homa and Thomas played together at Oak Hill on Monday.

“JT’s golf is not as good as my golf, which is not very good,” Homa told ESPN. “He’s very good at golf. I think sometimes you go through these little things, and he forgets how great of a golfer he is. Then you beat yourself up like we all do. At the end of the day, you’ve got to go out there and be confident and play. There’s been tough weeks, but he will have more good than bad.”

Homa says Thomas’ recent stretch says more about the challenges of winning on the PGA Tour than it does about JT’s game.

“I’ve played a lot of golf with him and he always looks good,” Homa said. “It’s hard to win in golf. It’s hard for people to say that he doesn’t play well, but it’s his standard that we’re used to. He’s better than average. But when you start winning majors, the expectation from outside. Rahm, Scottie [and] Rory doesn’t win big for a season, it’s like a low year. I think it’s a shame because it takes away the benefits and other things you have. “

Thomas has not stopped grinding during this difficult time and has changed a lot. After hearing that his body was weak at the end of the 2021-22 season in the hot climate, he changed his diet to go gluten-free for one year and dairy-free for six months. He also said that he eats meat, chicken, fish, rice and vegetables. At a Wells Fargo event two weeks ago, Thomas admitted, “I want pizza like you can’t imagine. Like I’d do the most disturbing thing about a pizza that’s just been thrown out of the garden.”

Thomas’ struggle is evident on the green. He ranks 138th in stroke average: putting (0.166) and is fourth-worst in three-point averages (33 times in 756 holes). He recently started using the AimPoint positioning system to help him read websites better. Designed by Mark Sweeney, it uses physics to help players calculate the slope of the pages. Players are encouraged to use their feet to feel the slope and toes to determine the starting point. It is used by Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley and other touring players.

“I’ve found, like anything in your golf game, I feel great some days and it’s hard,” Thomas said. “I’m sure it’s the same with your golf game. You’re going to have days where you feel like it’s just a blast, go, you’re doing it all, and you’re going to have weeks where it’s. Not so much.”

Thomas used AimPoint for the first time at the Wells Fargo Championship, where he had a three-under par and tied for 14th at 8 under.

“He said he’s on a very good path, and I would agree with that,” Jim “Bones” Mackay, Thomas’ manager, told ESPN. “I would be surprised if anyone else on the tour has a better job than he does. He wants to be good at golf, and he’s done all this to get better. To me, it’s clear. Obviously, he’s in good shape. He’s very careful with what he eats and he has time for everything. I think that his golf game is in great shape.”

After Homa earned his sixth PGA Tour victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, he reflected on his unlikely journey to become one of the world’s best golfers.

“It’s a beautiful game,” Homa said. “Sometimes you only need one good idea to be good again.”

Homa doesn’t believe Thomas is too far away from winning again.

“If there was a golf club, like there is with players in the NFL, they would be at the top of the major leagues,” Homa said. “He’s one of the best golfers I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Mackay, who helped Phil Mickelson won five major championships and served as an NBC sports analyst before carrying the Thomas bag for the past two combined seasons, he admitted.

“I used to say when I was doing TV that Justin has more shots than anyone in golf, as much or more,” Mackay said. “And I still believe it to this day. He’s very good at golf. Sometimes golf wears you down.”

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