WMPO Player Profile: Justin Thomas

Tom MackinJanuary 5, 2023
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Talk about knocking on the door – the 29-year-old Kentucky native has finished no worse than 13th in his last five WM Phoenix Open appearances, including consecutive third-place finishes in 2019 and 2020. He already knows how to win, collecting at least one title for the past seven seasons.
Is this his year in the desert?

  • CURRENT WORLD GOLF RANKING: 8*
  • CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: 15 PGA Tour wins, including the 2017 and 2022 PGA Championships
  • BEST WMPO FINISH: 3 (2019, 2020)

Mackin: How do you thread that needle of recruiting mainstream fans and yet serving what golf should be about?

Thomas: This is obviously a one-off event, and it should be. Nobody [else] can have the 16th hole like this tournament, and it should stay that way. Yeah, the beer getting thrown on the green is more just inconvenient for pace of play’s sake, and obviously dangerous, people getting hit and whatnot. But yeah, the loudness, the yelling, that’s a part of it, it’s all fun and games. Some people like it, some don’t, but if you don’t like it you don’t have to come here. I enjoy it. 

Watching you birdie 16 last year brought to mind your Players championship in 2021. When there are big crowds you seem to really, really eat it up. Has it always been that way?

I mean, I enjoy it. It’s what I play for, it’s what a lot of us play for. I think the hardest part is the fact that it’s a wedge. It would be a lot more fun if we could hit a driver, because we’re so amped up and [there’s] so much adrenaline, and it definitely took me a couple years to understand just how to play that. You almost have to play, or at least I play, a couple yards for that adrenaline when I’m feeling it. 

We saw you very emotional at the Ryder Cup in 2021. Do you feel like you have to manage those emotions and keep yourself in check, or do you just try to embrace it?

Both. You definitely have to manage it, that’s first and foremost, but you definitely have to embrace it. I mean, I hit it to 5 feet [at the 2022 WM Open] and I still had people yelling or booing… when people have 15 cocktails, they’re going to find something that’s wrong. But, I mean, that’s the Phoenix Open, you know what you’re getting into. There’s no tournament like it, there doesn’t need to be another tournament like it. This place stands on its own for a reason, and I know I enjoy it.

 

*As of 11/28/22