The latest version of Capital One’s ‘The Match’ was its most memorable to date. With a group that featured champion scrambler Jordan Spieth, Tour good-guy Rory McIlroy, and well, uh, Tiger Woods, it was Justin Thomas with his energy, humor, and downright elite skillset who undoubtedly stole the show.
It wasn’t more than a year ago that notorious goofball, Phil Mickelson, went from being fun-loving ‘lefty’ to public enemy number one after his defection to the LIV Golf Tour. His departure left a big hole in the PGA Tour’s pool of colorful personalities.
Insert JT, whose big drives, aggressive lines, and off-the-course personality represent that of Mickelson a decade ago. One couldn’t help but think about a Saturday round with your buddies while watching Justin Thomas and his pal Spieth muck it up on TNT, busting the chops of Rory and flinging chirps at Tiger.
The emergence of PGA Tour star, Justin Thomas.
Justin Thomas’ presence has grown on Tour over the past few years after spending most of his career in the shadow of his successful fellow match-mates, Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson.
That changed big time in 2022, when his flair for the dramatic took center stage at the PGA Championship, coming back from 7 shots to capture his second major. Add to that becoming the voice of Team USA at the Presidents Cup in September, where his play and moxie had Golf Digest’s Shane Ryan coin him the title “Captain America”, and Thomas has become the undisputed face of United States golf.
The only thing holding him back? Justin Thomas’ career to date has not included a great relationship with fans.
This most notably took center stage back in 2018, when Thomas had a fan removed from the gallery for rooting for his drive to go into a bunker.
Whether or not you agree with the actions of Justin Thomas, the blow-up came a week after he had made poignant remarks about gallery behavior. Reported by Golf WRX’s Ben Alberstadt, here were Thomas’ comments:
"“It was all right for a little bit today, but there at the end it got a little out of hand…I guess it’s a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn’t. I wish people didn’t think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots and play.”“I don’t know – I guess they just think it’s funny. It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting. But when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people’s swings, is just completely unacceptable really. We’re out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen. And you would just hate to have, hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”"
Despite the controversy, Justin Thomas has had good moments with fans also.
As recently as the PGA Championship in May, (which Thomas won), JT spoke out against the outrageous beer prices being offered to patrons.
Justin Thomas has also seen his following grow due to his presence at the yearly family event, The PNC Championship, which he and his father, Mike, dominated en route to the title in 2020.
Thomas’ interactions with Tiger Woods and his son, Charlie, have caught the most attention.
It’s no mystery that the 2023 PGA Tour schedule will be putting golf’s biggest stars in front of viewers more often than ever before, making it one of the most important seasons in the Tour’s history. And if there’s anything the Tour can lean on, it’s the star that they have in Justin Thomas.