Justin Thomas fought through a five-player logjam on Sunday at Quail Hollow, winning the PGA Championship in epic fashion.
When you see a player win three times by the end of January, the word “struggle” isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. However, by the middle of March, Justin Thomas felt like something of an afterthought. Displaced by the likes of Dustin Johnson, then Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth, Thomas has always had the game to win, but never did seal the deal on the biggest stage.
That won’t be the case anymore. Battling a course at Quail Hollow that could best be described as “punishing”, Thomas put together a magnificent final round to win the 2017 PGA Championship.
It was anything but easy, though. Thomas started his day two shots behind 54-hole leader Kevin Kisner. Partnered with Hideki Matsuyama in the penultimate pairing, Thomas opened with two bogeys and a birdie in his first three holes.
However, Kisner’s par streak came to an end on the seventh hole, just as Thomas started to heat up. Thomas made three birdies in a four-hole stretch, and suddenly a tournament that had been lacking in excitement had it in droves.
It wasn’t just a two-man race, of course. Thomas and Kisner were joined by a host of others down the stretch. Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen made some inspired runs. At one point, there was a five-way tie atop the leaderboard, with Thomas and Kisner joined by Matsuyama, Chris Stroud and a surging Francesco Molinari.
As challengers fell off, though, Thomas seized the moment.
Justin Thomas separated himself from the pack
This week was supposed to be about Jordan Spieth completing the career Grand Slam. Or Rickie Fowler winning his first major at the course where he won his first tournament. Or Rory McIlroy getting back into major shape. People may have forgotten about just how good Thomas really is.
That won’t happen again anytime soon.
You could see the pressure building in the contenders down the stretch. Kevin Kisner made three
bogeys and a double on the back nine Sunday. Matsuyama, who had struck the ball so well in his runaway win at Firestone last week, suddenly started missing left and right. Reed and Fowler simply ran out of time.
We’ve seen it time and time again. So many times on a major stage, it comes down to a little bit of luck, and a whole lot of poise. You can break it down to two holes, really.
On the par-5 10th, Thomas channeled a little bit of Tiger Woods magic, as hid birdie putt held on the left edge of the cup for ten full seconds before mercifully dropping in.
Then, on the par-3 13th, Thomas pulled his tee shot into the left rough, some 40 feet from the cup. Then, this happened.
That hole-out brought him to -8, and put the rest of the field on notice. They would either need to step up, or step aside.
Thomas maintained the pace, playing smart but aggressive golf on the back nine. As he walked up to the 18th green, even a closing bogey couldn’t stop the momentum. As his family, Spieth and Fowler watched in the gallery, Thomas finally realized his full potential.
He is now, and will always be, a major champion.
What’s next for the newest major champion? Can he carry this momentum into the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and beyond?