This time 52 weeks ago, Justin Thomas was a one-time winner on the PGA Tour. The number of professionals who had more wins than him was innumerable. Hell, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee had the same total for his career. And yet here we are, 12 months later, looking at the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and No. 4 player on the planet with six wins, a major and a limitless future.
“I don’t feel like I feel different,” Thomas said this week at the CIMB Classic where he is the two-time defending champion. “Maybe a part of me somewhere inside does, but in terms of just doing this and being a two-time defending champion as opposed to one … I don’t feel any different there. But I just feel more confident about everything, about the golf aspect, just going through everything, managing my time and what to do, what not to do, this and that. So I would say that’s the biggest difference in how I feel.”
He’ll get instruction from Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth for how to handle the future, he said recently, and he’ll need it. Thomas is a bonafide superstar now with the resume to boot.
“I’m going to try and spend a lot of time with Tiger (Woods) and definitely call and talk to Jordan (Spieth), because they’re the two people I’m closest to who have done something close to this and they’ve both achieved way more than this,” Thomas told ESPN recently. “I need to understand how to re-evaluate my goals, how to reset my goals, how to deal with everything.”
Thomas of course joined Woods, Spieth and Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers since 1960 under age 25 to win five times in a PGA Tour season including a major championship. What can he do for an encore? Who knows, but a third consecutive win at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia would be a nice start.
“It would be great,” Thomas said of the three-peat. “It’s actually funny, I didn’t realize this until today but the last person to do it was Steve Stricker, and who was caddying for him was my caddie. So I’m hoping that he is the reason for the three-peat and we can get some good vibes through him. It would be an unbelievable achievement. It’s so hard to win out here and there’s so many great players and it’s really just — it’s difficult to win. So if I were to be able to say that I did something three times in a row, it would be awesome.”
Regardless, Thomas is a 20-1 favorite or better to win three of the four major championships in 2018, and he certainly has the talent to follow up his five-win 2016-17 season. It will be difficult, though. Spieth struggled to back up his unbelievable 2015 with something as good in 2016. There will be bumps, but Thomas knows that, and he understands the maturity and work it takes to repeat historically great seasons. He hopes that someday that culminates in a No. 1 world ranking.
“I’m working hard to play the best that I can every week and trying to win the tournaments that I’m playing in that certain week,” said Thomas. “But I guess all of the preparation, all of the off-course preparation, anything that I’m putting in I guess you could say is striving or trying to get toward that No. 1 spot.”
It could happen sooner rather than later.