Considering, you know, he was just named the PGA Tour’s 2016-2017 Player of the Year and all, Justin Thomas is coming off a pretty decent season. He won five times, including the PGA Championship. He was third in season scoring average at 69.35. He shot 59 at the Sony Open and 63 at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
So, yeah, it was a good year, and Thomas had some interesting things to say after collecting his POY trophy.
You can’t let up one bit
Thomas learned the imperative of pouring in birdies in college.
“I love going low. I love making birdies. It’s something I honestly, as crazy as it is, I really think it speaks a lot to the courses that we played in college at Alabama. They weren’t exactly the hardest golf courses, but they were pretty good courses, but you could really score on them, and that’s something that Coach [Jay] Seawell would preach to us.”
“When you go out and play professional golf, you need to know how to make birdies, and you need to know what you’re doing when you’re six-under through nine or have a chance at 59, because you can’t let up one bit.”
Improved course management has been key
Of course, you can’t fire at every pin. Thomas explained caddie Jimmy Johnson has helped him keep the pedal down when he’s cruising and play more conservatively when he’s slightly off.
“I felt like I’ve always had the firepower to do so, but it was just about keeping the pedal down and keeping that aggressive mind frame when you’re playing that well,” he added. “That was something I was able to do, and Jimmy [Johnson, his caddie] did a great job, as well, helping me not change my mind frame and our game plan when we’re playing really well and just continue to attack, and yeah, I posted a lot of low numbers over the last couple years, but especially this year.”
“You could look at me now versus me probably in my rookie year, and I’d say that’s the difference – it’s just experience. You have to pick your spots.”
The combination of stellar birdie making and shrewd bogey avoidance; powerful stuff.
Goals for 2017-2018
Much was made of Thomas’ ambitious goals for 2016-2017, nearly all of which he completed. Looking ahead to the upcoming campaign, JT shed a little light on his goal-setting formula.
“I don’t know who I heard it from back in college or whenever it was, but you just have to break it up. You have to have two to four goals that are very achievable, two to four goals that are in grasp but will be tough, and two to four goals that are maybe a little bit out of the realm and are going to be very difficult to do, but are somewhat achievable if you have a great year like I did this year.”
Seeking advice from the right sources
When asked what he’d to ensure an equally good or better performance in 2017-2018, Thomas offered a wise reply: talk to the handful of guys who have been able to sustain high performance.
“I’ll probably spend some time talking to Mr. Nicklaus about or Tiger because those are guys — those are the only people — or even Jordan, those are the only people I know that have had such success in one season multiple times, and they’ve had to deal with resetting their goals and reevaluating.”
We talk a lot about Thomas’ prodigious birdie making, the raw power he generates with his 155-pound frame, his “Ambassador of Tour Sauce” status. But it sounds like Thomas has learned the critical lessons of course management and standing on the shoulders of giants. Which is to say, he could easily be the 2017-2018 Player of the Year as well.