Underachiever Thomas yearns for his second major title

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Newly crowned world number one Justin Thomas is playing at the top of his game at just the right time.

Thomas is coming off a rousing performance at the WGC-FedEx St Jude in Memphis, where he outduelled four-time major winner Brooks Koepka, to become the third-youngest player to win 13 times on the PGA Tour, behind only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

The 27-year old’s third win of the season propelled him to the top of the world rankings.

“My game is in a good place, obviously. I feel really good about everything,” Thomas said during a practice round on Tuesday.

Thomas said he can’t afford to make too many mistakes at this week’s PGA Championship if he is to stay in contention in the first major of the 2020 season.

“My good driving days are good, but it’s about getting those bad driving days better,” he said. “Same with the bad rounds of golf. I’ve gotten better at managing my bad rounds, and managing my emotions, and especially during a major championship.”

Justin Thomas of the United States during a practice round at TPC Harding Park. PHOTO: AFP

Thomas is the most recent player, not named Koepka, to lift the Wanamaker trophy having won the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Country Club in 2017. Koepka did it last year and in 2018.

But other than his victory in 2017, Thomas has struggled to contend in majors. The American’s only other top 10 showing was a tie for ninth at the 2017 US Open.

He said getting a major win early in his career was both a blessing and a curse.

“I could argue I could have gotten it sooner, or I should have gotten it sooner,” he said. “But at the same time I would definitely say I’ve underachieved, saying I’ve only had one so far in my career. I’ve felt almost getting the second one has been harder than the first one.

“To kind of get into that level, that other level – and to be up into the double digits in majors for a career – you need to start winning some.

“When you’re stuck on one, it’s pretty hard to get there.”

Thomas is enjoying his time as the world number one. But he doesn’t know how long it will last because no one has been able to hold onto the spot for very long.

“I’ve gotten myself to the point now where I do have it back, which is an awesome feeling,” he said. “But now it’s just about trying to see how long you can hold it.

“But it’s not like I’m out here playing this week to prove my number one.

“I’m out here for one reason, it’s to try to win a golf tournament.”

Thomas has won back-to-back tournaments before in his career but says this week feels odd and not just because it will be the first major championship to take place with no fans as a result of the global pandemic.

He is playing the TPC Harding Park course for the first time.

“I’ve played well in the past coming off of a tournament or coming off a win. But this is a little bit different because usually the week after winning if I’ve gone to a tournament and I’ve known the course or I’ve played it before.”