As a rookie, you’d think Justin Thomas’ seven top-10 finishes and $2.2 million in earnings would have “lit the PGA Tour on fire.” He should have been the new, shiny PGA Tour toy, hyped and touted for greatness, majors and a tremendous legacy.
With everything that happened in the crazy year that was 2015, his impressive resume didn’t make a blip on the radar. I mean, it made a mark in the minds of golf’s diehard following, but ask the weekend golfer about Justin Thomas and they’d have a better chance of pegging Georia Tech’s dual-threat quarterback than the rookie.
The PGA Tour’s Thomas though, despite his wonderful success, was overshadowed for the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year by Daniel Berger, a player with fewer top-10s, fewer top-25s, more missed cuts and a higher scoring average. He was overshadowed by his best friend Jordan Spieth, who almost won every event he played in 2015. Thomas and incredible innate talent, didn’t make his name a household one in 2015.
And from the 50,000 foot level, one might think that a tournament during “the offseason” in Malaysia carries no clout. It’s played during the heart of football season. Heck, in it’s southern Asia. It’s no accomplishment.. Au contraire. This event was chalk full of quality talent.
The won to emerge was Justin Thomas.
Thomas held off some names, including Mr. Runner-up Kevin Na, the “Japanese Spieth” Hideki Matsuyama, and former world #1 Adam Scott with his new short putter. Take a look at this leaderboard:
In 2012, on one of my first assignments for USGolfTV.com, I wrote on Justin Thomas and his Alabama Crimson Tide golf team (read here). I noted Thomas as “a freshman by the name of…” almost implying his relative anonymity in the golf world.
But after a few months of watching the collegiate results pour in, it was obvious what we had in Thomas– a future Tour star. He won events, recorded repeated top-5s against the nation’s top teams and put himself in contention during elite amateur events.
He was going to play on TV someday.
If anything is clear about Thomas in initial observations, it’s his confidence. I have a hard time personally deciphering whether or not it’s cockiness or confidence, but regardless, it’s an element which is practically a requirement to find success on Tour.
He carries himself with a particular smugness. He tweets sarcastically and seems to be fully aware of the talent he possesses. Some might not take well to it.
But I like it. To compete on the Tour, every player needs to have a bit of it in him, to know he’s able to compete. Many players surrender and the elite levels of golf, not because their games can’t hold, but because their minds can’t compete.
I don’t think Justin Thomas will have that problem.
Watch a few profiles on Thomas and you’ll learn that he stayed in college extra time, while his good friend Spieth turned pro, because he had the self-awareness to know that he wasn’t mature enough to compete full time as a professional. To learn more about Thomas off the course, here’s a nice piece done by the PGA Tour last season.
Justin Thomas found contention numerous times in his rookie campaign on the PGA Tour, but never closed out. He struggled down the stretch a couple of times, times now considered as learning experiences.
And at age 22, he fired a 66 with a double bogey on Sunday in Malaysia. He’s now got something else to tag on his name besides “Jordan Spieth’s buddy” (a joke that might I add, has gone entirely too far).
He’s a PGA Tour winner. And the win won’t be his last.
His final quote was a mark of his maturity.
“I just kept telling myself that it’s tough to win … we’re in a sport where the winning percentage isn’t in your favor, and I put myself there a bunch and I just need to keep doing so and moments like this can happen.”
Hey, Jordan was excited:
JTTTTTTTT What a bounce back. First of many.. 🍻on you next week!
— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) November 1, 2015
What a week.. One I'll never forget. Thanks everybody for the kind messages and here's to a great… https://t.co/d4yZs00Dk1
— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) November 1, 2015