justin thomas tour championship

‘You have to love what you do’: The nugget that’s propelled Justin Thomas to PGA Championship glory

The defending PGA champion talks about his major victories, his dad’s pivotal role in his career, and his place in the game


If Justin Thomas gets his hands on the Wanamaker Trophy once again at next week’s PGA Championship, he may hope victory will be a little less dramatic this time.

A year ago, the American engineered one of the great final round comebacks in major history – coming back from seven adrift at the start of play to see off Mito Pereira in a playoff.

It was the 30-year-old’s second major and second PGA Championship – his initial triumph coming five years previously at Quail Hollow – and catapulted him into that more select band of golfers with multiple successes.

Now, as he goes for more, and ahead of his championship defence at Oak Hill, the Rolex testimonee tells NCG what’s he learned from his two major wins, reveals the biggest influence on his career, and what it’s to be recognised as one of the game’s greats…

You are a two-time major winner following the dramatic three-hole playoff at the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills. How did this Major victory compare to your first Major win back in 2017 at Quail Hollow? And what did you learn from that week?

They were two very different kinds of wins. In 2017 at Quail Hollow, I was two back going into the Sunday in the second to last group and definitely went into the day with a mindset of this is my opportunity to win it.

There were only two or three people ahead of me so I was in a great position and didn’t have that many people to beat.

After nine holes, I was right in the mix so I very much knew where I was and what I needed to do, whereas in 2022 at Southern Hills, it was very different!

I started the day seven back and like always, had the idea somewhere in my head that if I shot a low round maybe I would stand a chance but I was just so far back and had about six people ahead of me – which isn’t too many but enough to be concerning – so I tried to take it one hole and step at a time.

I felt like I learned a lot about myself in both PGA Championships because they were very different and I had to go about them very differently with very different approaches but they both ended with the same result which I was hugely pleased with.

Justin Thomas

You have a strong relationship with Jack Nicklaus, who claimed his fifth PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club back in 1980. Have you reached out to him for advice at all on how best to play the course?

I haven’t but I know what I’ll be doing now! I did not know that but Jack is usually a good person to ask due to the number of Majors that he has won. There is probably a 50:50 chance that he has won at most golf courses in a Major championship rotation!

Who has been the biggest influence on your golf career?

I would have to say my Dad. He has been my coach for my whole life. He taught me the game. He has continued to teach me the game. He has moulded me into the person that I am. He is one of my best friends.

I am very, very fortunate to have the relationship that I do with my Dad. He has taught and continues to teach me a lot about the game of golf.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

It probably also came from my Dad! It’s so cliched but really is true: “You have to love what you do”. My parents instilled that in me when I was young. It was clear growing up that I wanted to play sport but I wasn’t good at any other sports besides golf.

My parents always made it known that if I’m not enjoying playing golf, that’s not what I only have to do. There’s nothing that I have to do in life. I just have to love, be passionate about and enjoy what I’m doing.

I think because of that, I grew up loving the game of golf and didn’t feel pushed. I didn’t grow up feeling like I had to play or had no option but to play. It was just natural to me and now at 29 years old, I’m still absolutely loving the game.

I still love the journey and the opportunity to get better with a view to becoming the World No. 1, win tournaments and Major championships. I think a lot of that has to do with the way that I was raised as a kid and what my parents taught me.

What would you tell your younger self back in 2013 when you first turned professional?

I would definitely tell myself to be more patient and that everything is going to be OK. I was also 20 years old so I like to hope and think I wasn’t as mature then as I am now!

At that age, when something happens, it sometimes feels like it’s the end of the world or that it’s such a big deal and so much stress when, in reality, it’s not and everything is going to work out. Any negative is an opportunity to learn but when you are 20 years old, you don’t tend to look at things that way.

Therefore, I would definitely tell myself to be a lot more patient and try to learn more from the negatives as opposed to getting upset at them.

How do you like to relax and spend time away from the golf course?

I like to pretty much do nothing! I like to spend my time away from the golf course just relaxing, catching up on rest and trying to keep my body in good shape. I love vacations. For me, I need two or three a year – whether that be in a two or three week break or not.

I am very fortunate to have a close-knit group of friends from high school growing up and I try to get together with them a couple of times a year. Whilst I am a grown up now and nearly 30 years old, I still need to be with my friends as it puts me in a happy frame of mind.

That time allows me to release a little bit and takes me away from the grind of golf all year.

Justin Thomas
Rolex Testimonee Justin Thomas wearing an Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41

Can you tell us about your relationship with Rolex? When and how it came about, and what it means to you?

My relationship with Rolex is unique and special. It definitely has a more family type feel than a business type partnership.

I remember when I first heard from my agent about some kind of interest from Rolex being there in 2014 when I was on the then Web.com Tour – now the Korn Ferry Tour. It is definitely a family, close knit and special group to be a part of.

What are your thoughts about Rolex’s longstanding support of golf?

I think that is something that is so unique about Rolex. It is not just the support through its ambassador program with the Rolex Testimonees but the support for the entire game.

Rolex has demonstrated a long-term commitment to growing the game of golf – whether that’s through the Rolex Series, the Major championships or being a title sponsor at massive events all around the world.

It is something that means a lot being on the side that I’m on – as a player – and being one of those who take part in the golf tournaments, knowing that I not only have support from one of my sponsors but a wider family that I am a part of.

You are one of six players in PGA Tour History with 15 victories and two Major Championships before the age of 30, joining fellow Rolex Testimonees, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods. What is it like to be recognised alongside some of the game’s greats?

It means a lot! I hope that I am able to be in the same conversation as those golfing greats and fellow Rolex Testimonees at the end of my career.

That’s always the main goal! It is hard sometimes to get wrapped up in the comparisons to other players and levels of accomplishments.

Obviously with someone like Tiger Woods, you cannot even begin to do something like that but especially when it comes to something like achievements by a certain age, you only have one opportunity.

It’s not like when I turn 30 I can go back in time and try to win a couple more events so it does mean a lot. I have been very fortunate to get off to a great start early in my career and I hope to keep that momentum going. Hopefully, I haven’t even reached my best golf yet!

Rolex has been at the heart of golf for almost 60 years. The affiliation began in 1967 when Arnold Palmer became the brand’s first golf Testimonee, joined by close friends and fellow members of The Big Three, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. These legendary players changed the face of golf forever, and their partnership with Rolex marked the beginning of a relationship based on a commitment to continuous improvement and unwavering precision. Since then, the affiliation between Rolex and golf has grown into one with a global reach. In 2021, Rolex became the Official Timekeeper and Official Partner of the PGA of America, organizer of the PGA Championship, supporting its efforts to grow interest and inclusion in the game of golf. Through this partnership Rolex is present at all four men’s Majors, the pinnacle of achievement in the sport.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

Latest Posts

pga championship second round

PGA Championship

Xander Schauffele clings to PGA Championship lead, but the sharks begin to circle


Read full article about Xander Schauffele clings to PGA Championship lead, but the sharks begin to circle
scottie scheffler press conference

PGA Championship

‘Shaking, shock and fear’: Scottie describes his surreal morning with the police


Read full article about ‘Shaking, shock and fear’: Scottie describes his surreal morning with the police
scottie scheffler arrest video

PGA Championship

The Scottie Scheffler arrest video must be seen to be believed


Read full article about The Scottie Scheffler arrest video must be seen to be believed
scottie scheffler statement

PGA Championship

Scottie Scheffler statement: What the World No. 1 said after his arrest


Read full article about Scottie Scheffler statement: What the World No. 1 said after his arrest
Scottie Scheffler mugshot

PGA Championship

The Scottie Scheffler mugshot seen around the world


Read full article about The Scottie Scheffler mugshot seen around the world
PGA Championship Friday tee times

PGA Championship

Updated PGA Championship Friday tee times: Round 2 groupings


Read full article about Updated PGA Championship Friday tee times: Round 2 groupings
scottie scheffler police

PGA Championship

Scottie Scheffler handcuffed and detained by police in Valhalla


Read full article about Scottie Scheffler handcuffed and detained by police in Valhalla
PGA Championship blog

PGA Championship

PGA Championship LIVE – All the day two action from Valhalla


Read full article about PGA Championship LIVE – All the day two action from Valhalla
pga championship first round

PGA Championship

Xander Schauffele makes history and takes command of PGA Championship


Read full article about Xander Schauffele makes history and takes command of PGA Championship