No player enters the 2017-18 season with greater hype than Justin Thomas, coming off a momentous season. He’s the reigning FedEx Cup champion and undisputed PGA Tour Player of the Year, two of many seasonal accolades which helped his name reach golf stardom in less than a year.
In this player profile, you’ll learn how a little kid from Kentucky earned his PGA Tour card and became one of the best golfers in the world.
It Begins: PGA Tour Card
Thomas attended Alabama for one year, but in a short time span was considered one of the top collegiate golfers in the world. He was awarded both the Phil Mickelson Award (National Freshman of the Year) Haskins Award (most outstanding college golfer), and in the NCAA Championship, reached the final before falling to Jordan Spieth.
Thomas turned pro in 2013 and immediately earned his Web.com Tour card through qualifying school. His first and only season on the tour, Thomas was 18/20 on made cuts and garnered seven top 10 finishes, including his first-career victory at the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship.
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) September 15, 2014
He placed third in the final Web.com Tour money list, thus earning PGA Tour status for 2015.
First Victory and Those That Followed
The Louisville native had a very solid rookie season, posting seven top 10s and 15 top 25s over the course of 30 events and finished 32nd in the FedEx Cup race. However, he was actually beat out by Daniel Berger for PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
Just over one month after his debut season concluded, Thomas fired rounds of 68-61-67-66 (26-under) at the 2015 CIMB Classic for the first of many PGA Tour victories. The round of 61 became a course record in Malaysia, but it wouldn’t be the only sub-62 score he would shoot before now (more on this later).
Thomas showcased improvements throughout the remainder of the 2016 season, including appearances in all four majors and increased his final FedEx Cup point standing to 12th by year’s end. Déjà vu would occur months later as Thomas once again caught fire in the fall, and defended his CIMB title that October.
It was only the beginning.
Little did we know, the 2016-17 PGA Tour would later be called “the year of Justin Thomas.” JT played remarkable golf early in the campaign, with his first six tournaments netting him five top 10s and three victories in a span of four months. His performance at the SBS Tournament of Champions was great, but became a distant memory after what he did one week later in Hawaii.
All four rounds Thomas played at the 2017 Sony Open were under 66, with his opening-round 59 becoming a national headline – the seventh PGA Tour player to ever shoot a 59. Not only that, he also became the second-youngest player to ever go that low and set 36-hole and 72-hole PGA Tour records.
That's a keeper.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 12, 2017
But again, it was only the beginning.
Thomas remained consistent throughout the spring and summer, and made additional history at the U.S. Open by tying the single-round record of 63. He ultimately finished ninth after a disappointing final-round 75, but two months later we would witness his clutch gene in full force.
On a difficult track at Quail Hollow Country Club, Thomas held off Francesco Molinari, Louis Oosthuizen and Patrick Reed for the PGA Championship title. Thomas navigated the course like a true professional on Sunday, catching breaks and sinking huge putts to earn his first major.
JT also picked up a win at the Dell Technologies Championship in early September, with the nod putting him in elite company. Thomas became only the fourth golfer to win five times, including a major, in one season before turning 25 – joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Spieth.
In the season finale at the Tour Championship, Thomas played well enough to secure a runner-up finish, but more importantly, captured the FedEx Cup trophy and the $10 million which comes along with it.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 4, 2017
Drama On and Off the Course
Thomas is just the type of person you want representing your organization if you’re the PGA Tour. His character is much like his father Mike Thomas, a longtime PGA professional in Kentucky. He’s humble, down to earth and extremely likeable. It’s a tight-knit relationship that you can’t ignore. Normally, golfers run towards their partner to embrace after a win. Instead, Mike was one of, if not the first person, Justin hugged after winning the PGA Championship.
After stepping off the golf course, JT always gives compelling and honest interviews with no snark included. He seemingly gives reporters great material following post-round press conferences, none finer than after his FedEx Cup victory in which Thomas reached for his phone and revealed a list of goals he set for himself.
Take notes, kids …
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 25, 2017
He also took a call from his grandfather at the same presser, further emphasizing the fact Thomas puts family first.
Here’s a look at Thomas’ 2017 key statistical rankings:
6th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
8th in Driving Distance
6th in SG: Approach
54th in Scrambling
47th in SG: Putting
56th in Par 3 Scoring
2nd in Par 4 Scoring
24th in Par 5 Scoring
The FedEx Cup champ doesn’t have many weaknesses, especially off the tee and approaching the green. But around the green is where he statistical needs to improve upon. On his list of goals, he listed top 30 in scrambling, so that’s an area he’ll certainly emphasize in 2017-18. His putting got better as the season wore on, so it’s not a major concern going forward.
What a year it was! Humbled to be known as a Fed Ex Champ. Memorable and unforgettable year for my team and I. Thanks to them all!
— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) September 25, 2017
In terms of the Official World Golf Rankings, Thomas entered as low as 41st following the 2016 PGA Championship, but his strong start to 2016-17 and the historic victory at the Sony Open jolted him up into the top 10. He did fall back outside that number during the U.S. Open and The Open periods, although it didn’t last long as the victory at the Dell moved him all the way up to fourth where he currently stands.
What the Future Holds
It’s very bright. Thomas is still only 24-years-old and like fellow young players such as Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm, he hasn’t reached the prime of his career.
JT can definitely win another major in 2018, and with his ability to shoot low scores on any given week, should be a lock to claim a handful of victories and contend for PGA Tour Player of the Year again. He also showcased his dominance in team competition at this year’s President’s Cup (3-1-1 overall record) and will be a key member of the American squad at the 2018 Ryder Cup.