PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The ball appeared destined for the water. All of the physique language on the earth did not look like it was going to alter that. Justin Thomas tried anyway. After which, a shot aimed too far left in some way discovered land, rolling alongside the railroad ties that body the pond for an additional 65 yards earlier than coming to relaxation safely within the 18th fairway.
Thomas pulled his cap over his eyes and staggered towards his caddie, Jimmy Johnson, realizing that calamity had been prevented.
It was extra aid than pleasure. That, too, was the emotion Thomas carried with him after the ultimate gap at TPC Sawgrass and into the celebration of a 1-shot victory over Lee Westwood on the Gamers Championship.
For maybe the primary time in his skilled life, Thomas, 27, needed to cope with adversity this 12 months, a few of it self-inflicted. He used an anti-gay slur, caught on microphone, in January on the Sentry Event of Champions. Certainly one of his sponsors, Ralph Lauren, dropped him. His grandfather Paul Thomas, a former Kentucky membership professional, handed away final month. And in February, Tiger Woods, with whom Thomas has develop into shut, was in a serious accident and suffered significant injuries.
“It has been a crappy couple months,” stated Thomas, who shot 64-68 on the weekend to win for the 14th time on the PGA Tour. “I’ve had stuff occur in my life I by no means thought I might have occur. Shedding Grandpa was horrible. Having to play a spherical of golf [at the Waste Management Phoenix Open after his grandfather died] was horrible — and never taking part in nicely. It was rather a lot. And it took rather a lot on me mentally.
“If I needed to come back to those tournaments and have an opportunity to win, then I wanted to suck it up and recover from it. If I needed to throw a pity get together for myself or really feel sorry for myself, there isn’t any motive to point out up. I can keep house till I really feel like I am prepared. I felt like I used to be in a ok head house the place I might play. I simply wasn’t taking part in nicely. After which as soon as I wasn’t taking part in nicely, it was form of snowballing.”
The primary two rounds of this event adopted the same sample. Thomas was exterior the minimize line by way of 27 holes. He made 4 birdies over his remaining 9 holes Friday to get himself into the weekend. That arrange a third-round 64 wherein he had an eagle, seven birdies and a bogey. Nonetheless, he entered Sunday’s remaining spherical three strokes behind Westwood.
Via eight holes Sunday, he was 1 over for the spherical regardless of hitting each fairway and inexperienced. Lastly, although, putts began dropping and he performed a four-hole stretch starting on the ninth in 5 underneath to take the lead.
“It was a ballstriking clinic,” Johnson stated.
His father and coach, Mike Thomas, noticed one thing acquainted in his son.
“That seemed like a spherical from the outdated Justin Thomas,” Mike Thomas stated. “Simply ballstriking the heck out of it. If he had had that putter rocking, he’d have gained by 6 or 7.”
It has been a tricky time for Mike Thomas, too. It was his father who handed away on Feb. 6. He noticed the fallout from his son’s use of an anti-gay slur. Then got here the feelings from Woods’ accident.
Mike Thomas had issue discovering the phrases when talking of his father’s dying, a number of instances stopping to compose himself. Paul Thomas had an affect on Justin’s recreation, too, as “he had numerous tales,” Mike Thomas stated. “In fact, in his later years, we have been listening to them for the seventh or eighth instances — or 20th time. However Justin at all times appreciated to listen to them.”
Thomas thought-about not taking part in the ultimate spherical in Phoenix following his grandfather’s dying.
“The toughest spherical of golf I ever performed,” Thomas stated.
He shot 1-over 72 that Sunday and tied for 13th as Brooks Koepka gained the event.
“I do know Justin thought-about not taking part in, however Dad would have needed him to,” Mike Thomas stated.
Thomas missed the minimize on the Genesis Invitational, only a few days earlier than Woods’ accident. He completed tied for 15th on the WGC-Workday Championship the next week.
“There’s individuals who have much more issues than we do, but it surely was actually his first time coping with shedding a liked one after which there was the backlash from the opposite stuff,” Mike Thomas stated. “He was struggling mentally.”
Thomas didn’t disclose many particulars, however he did say he has been in contact with Woods. He stated he acquired encouragement from him — simply as Bryson DeChambeau has from Woods, too.
“I used to be replaying what [Woods] instructed me rather a lot in my head,” Thomas stated. “He likes to present me numerous grief, particularly when he isn’t right here … We’re all pulling for him. And I am so glad to listen to all the pieces has been going nicely with him.
“However a part of me needs he was right here so I might rub it in his face just a little bit extra. However no, I am pleased and I hope he is pleased. I at all times respect his assist.”
Little doubt Thomas will hear from Woods about that remaining tee shot. The 5-wood draw began just a little too near the water and in some way prevented it. Thomas stated it was “50-50” within the air whether or not he thought he’d see a splash.
“That is the form of stuff that occurs whenever you win tournaments,” Thomas stated. “You get breaks like that. It was too shut for consolation, to say the least.”