PGA Championship 2022: Justin Thomas shows balance in taking advantage of precious chance to win second major

TULSA, Oklahoma — The majors are precious. About 550 individual bids were made to win the biggest event of the year, but only four trophies were awarded over the months-long period. Less than 1 percent of those who tee off at four majors each year leave with complete satisfaction.

During that stretch of the 2022 PGA Championship, it seemed like someone would walk away, not only satisfied but shocked. Heading into Sunday’s final round at South Hills Country Club, the club’s eighth major championship, the top four on the leaderboard — Mito Pereira, Matt Fitzpatrick, Will Zara Torres and Cameron Young – Combined, 0 PGA Tour victories, only five major top 10s in their careers.

For any of those four, Sunday’s win would be life-changing. For three-quarters of the group, the days of their Korn Ferry trip were still so fresh that internalizing this monumental moment must have felt like trying to catch water with your hands.

Justin Thomas knows this.

He was seven shots behind in the final round on Sunday after hitting a dazzling 67-67-74. However, he was more hopeful than he thought.

“I just remember how hard it was, I remember how hard it is to win now,” Thomas said. “So, I know I’m going to be nervous, and I know they’re going to feel the same way.”

JT hit a wave late Thursday and early Friday, two shots harder than the opponent. His golf was so good the first two days that he beat everyone but one player by five strokes in that tie.

The whole thing is a show. Earlier this week, Thomas moved his ball with such aplomb that it looked like Jim “Bone” McKay was manipulating it with the remote. Most modern players choose to paint by numbers. While Thomas reaches for the plethora of brushes at his disposal, you might as well clear space in the museum.

Still, he was behind the weekend thanks to that tough draw. It will get worse before it gets better. He shot a 2-under 74 on Saturday to tie for seventh, seven behind 54-hole leader Pereira. Thomas was almost buried on the blackboard. It seemed that one of the few real chances he had to win a major was gone before he could fully materialize.

Thomas was one of the last to play Saturday night, but he was more optimistic than expected as that 74 appeared to be a precious few runs that took another major trophy from some of the best players in pro golf. one.

He played for a while, and with words of encouragement from Bones, he told JT he needed to stop being so disappointed in himself. Thomas seemed to take it to heart. He ended his Saturday signing one by one for the suffering children who had been waiting for his autograph all day.

“I came out of here with an awesome mind,” Thomas said. “I think [I was] The last player here. …so peaceful.The beauty outside is almost a little creepy, and after a 4 in a major on Saturday, there are not many times I’m in the same good mood as I am [here]. ”

Thomas got off to an underwhelming start on Sunday with an even-par 35 on the front nine. After hitting par at No. 10 and staying 2 under for a week, Data Golf put his odds of winning at 0.4 percent. In other words, it would be a miracle.

Then something happened that reminded everyone of his last big win, the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. JT made a putt from 65 feet on the 11th hole, half bowed to the crowd and toppled his hat. It was the result of a birdie in the final round the last time he won the Wanamaker Trophy.

Thomas also birdied the 12th hole and then missed a birdie putt on the 15th that would bring the house down. At the time it felt like it would be a shot he would regret looking back at.

A birdie up and down on the par-4 putt on No. 17 — bones say Tougher than it looks—getting JT 5-under and waiting for a strong No. 18. Thomas ripped the tall knife off the tee and hit the right-hand flagpole with a championship iron.

“It’s fantastic,” Thomas said. “I don’t really know what else to describe it. I mean, the irons on the 18th, that’s why I play golf. Like, that’s why I practice. All the time and everything, and the time invested, you want to be in that situation. You want to be in that situation. In the context of the whole gallery, I know I’m competing.

“It’s hard to explain, but it’s a chilling feeling all over the body.”

Thomas somehow missed a putt that again felt costly. He played No. 17 and No. 18 as well as he could, but he didn’t know if his third 67 in four rounds was enough. JT headed to the scoring tent—where he was clubhouse leader at 5 under, with his legs outstretched on the table—to watch the drama unfold behind him on the field.

Just before moving to a more private place to watch the game over, Thomas looked up and said to anyone, “Hope for the best, man.”

He got it.

Zara Torres was 1-over on the back nine and birdied to join Thomas at 5-under.

After Pereira, who had one over on the first seven holes of the back nine, left a birdie putt on the 17th one lap short of the cup, the 54-hole leader needed pars to win going into the 18th. . His tee shot on the final hole of the tournament looked like a check swing, which made the guy next to me say, “Looks like he got electrocuted on the shot.”

pereira made a Heartbreaking double bogey 18, missed the playoffs completely.

At the end of the major, everything happens quickly.

Thomas was taken to the other end of the practice range, where the players have been playing all week. Not a single turf was found.

CBS announcer Colt Knost fed him game by game at the end of the game. From there, he was put on a cart and taken to the 13th tee, where the three-hole finals began.

An impromptu parade broke out in the middle. The slogan “JT! JT!” is a mix of special smells you can only smell in a professional – a mix of mud, sweat and hamburger smoke. It settles down in the playoffs.

Thomas and Zara Torres traded birdies on the par-5 13th. JT’s father, Mike, seemed ready to lift the roof for the crowd surrounding the green.

In this way, a mediocre professional suddenly became a classic.

As Thomas walked to number 17, an audience member shouted, “Mom, that’s a bad guy.” That’s forward JT hit the championship shot on the penultimate hole: a high-hanging missile flipped over on its own, hit the front of the green and landed 34 feet from the cup. He made two putts for birdie while Zara Torres made par.

Bones heard JT’s ear on the 18th tee, and like the famous Draymond Green-Kevin Durant GIF, Thomas hit another par-two on the hardest hole of the week.

The third-largest 54-hole comeback in major history — and the biggest this century — is complete. Zara Torres took off his hat and clapped his hands from a distance, and Thomas, who had always been calm, collapsed.

“I just thought it was too hard to win,” Thomas said when asked about his emotions afterwards. “Like, it does. I think it’s harder to win now than it was when I first played on the tour. … I think it’s easy to start letting some doubts creep in, just a little bit [think], like, ‘Okay, what’s going to happen? When will it happen? Yes Will it happen?

“I just went 18 in the playoffs and I know it’s not over, but I look up and I want to accept it because you don’t know when and if it’s going to happen again. It’s unbelievable, very Cool feeling, you just want to enjoy it.”

Professionalism is precious. There are very few of them and there are a lot of great players vying to bring them home. When Thomas went into the final ball on Sunday, first-round leader Rory McIlroy told CBS Sports that the “frustrated” came after he finished eighth on the final leaderboard and let his winning attempt slip away. The main emotion experienced.

Thomas learned how little opportunity had been in the years between his 2017 PGA Championship and this one, so he was emotional on the 18th. When you win your first major at the age of 24, it always feels like they’re going to start flowing. Then they didn’t.

The past five years have brought absurd championships. Scottie Schaeffler, Jon Rahm, Colin Morricka, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Boo Ryson DeChambeau has won at least one since Thomas’ last title — several more than one.

In their careers, even star golfers could get a real run at the majors on Sunday afternoon. If they are lucky.

As Thomas headed to the clubhouse after finishing with a 275, he walked past the US PGA staff handling the oversized Wanamaker Trophy.

The 27-pound, 28-inch-tall cup was held by trainers in polo and vest as Thomas stood beside him. The trophy is wrapped in a blue velvet cover. This is not the time.

Twenty minutes away, that moment seems to be a metaphor for Thomas’ day and this period in his career.

He’s been playing for several years and has no big game to show. He played great three days in a row and played so bad one day. Those with the trophies strolled down the hill to those still ahead of Thomas on the leaderboards, who had yet to finish the race.

No one lifted the trophy, and JT made the playoffs.

Wanamaker was already in the spotlight on Sunday when he boarded No. 18 for the second time. It reflects the receding sun in the Oklahoma sky, where Tiger Woods was last seen winning a major in 2007.

Thomas was a teenager at the time, and the idea that he and Tiger would one day be good friends was an unfathomable dream for him at the time. Now, they are the last two golfers to win a major at Nanshan.

As Thomas made his way through the crowd surrounding No. 18, the unrevealed trophy gleamed, waiting to be lifted.

JT himself has another valuable profession.

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