By: Ron Green Jr. of Global Golf Post
For Justin Thomas, the moment finally arrived Sunday at the PGA Championship. The record-tying 63 at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills was nice, but Sunday there hadn’t played out the way Thomas imagined.
When another chance came at Quail Hollow Club, Thomas delivered a golden performance, shooting a final-round 68 for 8-under 276 on a wickedly dangerous golf course to win his first major championship by two strokes ahead of Patrick Reed, Francesco Molinari and Louis Oosthuizen.
In the event that celebrates golf professionals, Thomas won in front of his father, Mike, a club pro in Kentucky and with thoughts of his grandfather, Paul, also a club pro pushing him.
In the process, the 24-year-old Thomas went from being a splashy young talent often identified as one of Jordan Spieth’s best pals to planting himself in the rare company of major champions. It is the first but likely not the last for Thomas, who has won four times on the PGA Tour this season and is in the running for player of the year.
From shooting 75 on Sunday at Erin Hills and falling out of contention early in the final round to handling the heat, humidity and herd of challengers at Quail Hollow, Thomas felt a calmness that carried him.
“Just the experience of going through it (at Erin Hills), any time you can be in the final group is great but it was just really my comfortability of where my game was and how I felt, and the prep that I put into this week; I felt like I was ready. It just was about going out and doing it,” Thomas said.
Sunday’s final round did not begin well for Thomas, who admitted that he didn’t handle the last round of the U.S. Open well when he had a chance to win. It was a scratchy start with Thomas finding three bunkers on his way to a difficult bogey on No. 1 that required holing a 14-foot putt.
It may have changed the day and the result.
At the par-5 10th hole, it began to feel like Sunday might be Thomas’ day. He badly pulled his tee shot but it hammered into a pine tree and kicked back into the fairway. That was good break No. 1.
Good break No. 2 came moments later when Thomas saw his 10-foot birdie putt reach the left edge of the hole, one half of the ball hanging over nothing but air. Thomas turned away momentarily and when he turned back, he saw his ball tumble in for a birdie that put him in a five-way tie for the lead.
It prompted a tip of the cap from Thomas that may become one of the signature images of his young career.
Three holes later at the par-3 13th, Thomas missed the green to the left then pitched in from 39 feet and suddenly had a two stroke lead.
The moment that mattered most at the end came on the treacherous 216-yard par-3 17th hole. Nursing a one stroke lead, Thomas painted a rainbow with his full-out 7-iron that settled 15 feet from the hole, setting up a birdie that pushed his margin to two going to the final tee.
Thomas had the benefit of a semi-comfortable lead on the 72nd hole because Reed, who had raced into contention on the final nine holes, bogeyed the par-4 18th. He left his second shot short then played a pitch shot that stopped 20 feet in front of the hole, allowing Thomas to bogey the 18th and still win by two.
Driver: Titleist 917D2 (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana BF 60TX (tipped 1.5 inches)
3 Wood: Titleist 917F2 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Blue 80TX
5 Wood: Titleist 915Fd (18 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 9.2 Tour Spec X-Flex
Irons: Titleist 716 CB (4 iron), Titleist 718 MB prototype (5-9 irons)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
Putter: Scotty Cameron X5 Prototype (flow neck)
Length: 34 inches, 350 grams
Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Republished with permission by Global Golf Post