Five years ago Justin Thomas wasn't part of the major scene, now as another collection of records tumble in a 12th PGA Tour win it's time for him to step up on the biggest stage
When his good friend Jordan Spieth was jetting off to St Andrews in search of a Grand Slam in 2015, on the back of a victory at the John Deere, Justin Thomas wasn’t eligible to make the trip to Scotland.
Thomas, who had only played in one major to that point, tied for 5th to move up seven spots in the world rankings to 92nd.
One of his earlier claims to fame in a highly decorated amateur career was being part of Alabama’s victorious NCAA Championship effort in 2013 – the previous year Alabama were beaten by Texas 3-2 in the final in which Spieth beat Thomas in a one-sided contest.
His room and team-mate at Alabama was Scott Strohmeyer and he remembers Thomas, as he appears today, as the all-round superstar.
“When you have somebody that has as much talent as he does, it’s easy to get wrapped up in yourself and put your own interests first. Justin didn’t have that problem, his big motivation was for us to win as many team tournaments and championships as we could. He was very selfless.
“His greatest strength was his ability to get the ball in the hole, it just seemed so easy to him. We ended up having to play against each other in the 2010 US Amateur at Chambers Bay. I was 3- or 4-up with five holes left and he essentially birdied every single hole coming in to send it to extra holes.”
Strohmeyer beat him at the 19th, but fast forward to the present day and Thomas now has more PGA Tour wins than Spieth with 12 to his Ryder Cup partner’s 11 – Spieth won six times before Thomas got off the mark and at one point led 8-1 in this stat – to now make him the most successful player in his 20s on tour with Rory McIlroy turning 30 last year.
12+ @PGATour wins before age 27, last 85 years:
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) January 6, 2020
In the inaugural Spring Break in 2016 the big guns were Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both in the world’s top five, with Thomas and Smylie Kaufman those lucky enough to share some holiday time with them, albeit both were also in the 50.
These days Thomas is up to 4th in the world and climbing with Spieth outside the top 40, and he’s taken over from Spieth and Patrick Reed as the new shining light in the American team room. His team record stands at 11 points from a possible 15.
At the start of last week he reflected that he should have won more, both in terms of regular events and majors, and come the end of his victorious week he wasn’t letting up on himself with his views on how he tackled Kapalua’s famous 18th.
“I don’t like that second shot. I fat it once a year. I fatted it like twice this year. I like working the ball left to right, and you need to work that thing right to left, and for me if I try to draw it, my miss is going to be a little bit behind it, and then when you’ve got a huge slope behind you, it’s really behind it.”
The next step for Thomas is to start working away on his partners’ major records, first Spieth’s and then Woods.
The bookies rate him as an 18-1 shot at Augusta which, away from all the talk of Tiger, Rory and ‘Brooksy’, seems quite a smart bet.
Justin Thomas vs. Jordan Spieth
July 2013: Spieth wins John Deere Classic (0-1)
March 2015: Spieth wins Valspar Championship (0-2)
April 2015: Spieth wins Masters (0-3)
June 2015: Spieth wins US Open (0-4)
July 2015: Spieth wins John Deere Classic (0-5)
September 2015: Spieth wins Tour Championship (0-6)
November 2015: Thomas wins CIMB Classic (1-6)
January 2016: Spieth wins Tournament of Champions (1-7)
May 2016: Spieth wins Dean & DeLuca Invitational (1-8)
October 2016: Thomas wins CIMB Classic (2-8)
January 2017: Thomas wins Tournament of Champions (3-8)
January 2017: Thomas wins Sony Open (4-8)
February 2017: Spieth wins Pebble Beach Pro-Am (4-9)
June 2017: Spieth wins Travelers Championship (4-10)
July 2017: Spieth wins The Open (4-11)
August 2017: Thomas wins PGA Championship (5-11)
September 2017: Thomas wins Dell Technologies Championship (6-11)
October 2017: Thomas wins CJ Cup (7-11)
February 2018: Thomas wins Honda Classic (8-11)
August 2018: Thomas wins WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (9-11)
August 2019: Thomas wins BMW Championship (10-11)
October 2019: Thomas wins CJ Cup (11-11)
January 2020: Thomas wins Tournament of Champions (12-11)