7. Justin Thomas, 2017, -2.29
The 2016 championship was played at Quail Hollow’s 7,600 yard par 71 course, the field featuring 13 former champions. Thomas’ first round 73 left him well back in the pack, six strokes behind co-leaders Kevin Kisner and Thorbjorn Olesen. On a rainy Friday, he cobbled together a strong 66, but that still left him five strokes behind Kisner and Hideki Matsuyama, tied at 134.
Thomas moved into a tie for fourth on Saturday, posting a 69 that matched Louis Oosthuizen at 208 and stood two strokes behind Kisner’s 206. Beginning indifferently on Sunday, he found himself still tied for fourth and three strokes behind Kisner through six holes.
The par 5 seventh was a turning point. Thomas birdied, and when Kisner took a bogey he lost the lead to Hideki Matsuyama, Thomas just two behind. Birdies at nine and 10 lifted Thomas within a shot of Matsuyama, who followed by bogeying the 11th, 12th and 13th, When Thomas chipped in for birdie at No. 13 he suddenly found himself sitting on a three-stroke advantage over the field.
Francesco Molinari and Patrick Reed both staged late runs fueled by birdies at 14 and 15 to pull back within a stroke. But when Molinari bogeyed 16 and Thomas followed with a birdie at the par 3 17th, he reinstated his lead over Reed by two, a margin that held up to the finish.