As of this past week, Justin Thomas is officially a 30-year old. Thomas has 15 PGA Tour wins to his name, two of those being major championships: the 2017 and 2022 PGA Championship. Ask most golfers and they would be thrilled to have that resume at any point in their career, let alone as a 30-year old. For Thomas, however, this just isn’t enough.
“The only thing that upsets me about turning 30 is that I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I would’ve liked or wanted,” Thomas told Golf.com. “Obviously, a lot of people would take my career, but I don’t know. I’m not that pleased with it.”
Thomas’ remarks may come off a bit whiny to some people. However, there is certainly admiration for wanting more and striving to be a Hall-of-Fame like player even though the resume is kind of leaning that way already. He later one relents a little saying he is, in fact, happy with it while he does want more.
“Having two majors is great, but I want five. Fifteen wins is great but I want thirty. I don’t know of that’s a good or a bad thing but that’s the reality.”
The average just person wants to break 90 or 100. Thomas wants to break Tiger Woods’ and Jack Nicklaus’ records. For a player on the PGA Tour, there’s nothing wrong with that ambition. Thomas wants to be remembered for his accomplishments. That’s why he hasn’t taken the paycheck to go to LIV Golf. He wants his legacy to be remembered but right now, that “legacy” is taking a small hit.
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A Look Into Justin Thomas’ 2023 Struggles
After winning five times in 2017, Thomas entrenched himself into the OWGR’s top-10. Clear up until the week before The Masters, Thomas resided in the top-10. He even spent sometime as the world number one for a few months in 2018. This snapped a 293-week streak of being inside the top-10 in the world. That’s the definition of longevity especially in the game of golf.
Since Thomas’ triumph at the 2022 PGA Championship, he’s had five top-10 finishes but none higher than third. That came at the RBC Heritage just three weeks after the PGA. He hasn’t really been in the mix for a victory since the PGA where he came back from a seven-stroke deficit to win. His game certainly hasn’t been where he needs it to be. What has been ailing him?
In SG: Tee-to-Green, Justin Thomas ranks eighth on Tour with 1.332 this season. Thomas has gained .553 strokes Around the Green in 2023, That figure ranks second on Tour. These numbers would typically signify that Thomas is playing well. However, his cumulative stats say quite the opposite.
Thomas used to be one of the longer players on Tour. He still ranks in the top half of the Tour but his 304.7 average driving distance is 47th. He’s hit just 58.7% of fairways in 2023, good for 113th. Greens in Regulation? He’s hitting just 64.9% of those which is 134th amongst PGA Tour golfers.
These numbers don’t inspire much confidence in the current state of Thomas’ game. He’s always been one of the better wedge players in the game and his SG: Around the Green rank at least solidifies that.
Thomas’ putting struggles
Maybe the most concerning facet of his game so far this season has been his putting.
According to the PGA Tour’s official website, there is only one stat that Thomas ranks within the top-20 in putting: birdie or better conversion. He ranks 12th with a birdie or better on 35.8% of his chances.
Here are some other notable putting categories and where Justin Thomas ranks in them.
SG- Putting: -.225 (148th)
Putting Average: 1.755 (81st)
Putts Per Round: 28.5 (68th)
3-Putt Avoidance: 4.53% (202nd)
Putting Inside 10ft: 87.77% (97th)
Avg. Distance of Putts Made: 68′ 6″ (168th)
Thomas has never been considered among the game’s elite putters like his buddy Jordan Spieth. But many of his triumphs over the years have come because his putter got hot for the week. That type of week has eluded him to this point of the season.
At the PGA Championship, only Lucas Herbert outpaced him in SG: Putting that week as Thomas finished with a cool 1.56 strokes gained on the greens. Since then, Thomas has only gained positive strokes putting seven times. Only three of those were more than 0.1 strokes gained.
Justin Thomas just recently got married to his wife, Jillian. Surely, everyone will point to that as the beginning of the struggle but that’s just a silly excuse. He hasn’t been playing well for months before that.
He’s slipped to 14th in the OWGR and sits 69th in the FedEx Cup rankings. Thomas has won a tournament every season for the last seven seasons. It’s possible this slump eventually subsides and he continues his streak. However, we did see his buddy, Jordan Spieth, fall out of relevance for a good time as well. Things like this happen in the game of golf.
The competition now is as stiff as it’s ever been and that’s even with guys like Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson participating in the rival LIV Golf Tour. Thomas is still considered an elite player and, despite being on the wrong side of 30 now, is still a threat to win anytime he’s in contention.
Missing the cut at The Masters has certainly eaten away at Thomas. He’s less than a year removed from feeling on top of the world and winning one of golf’s four biggest events of the season. One would think he’ll be fine and figure this thing out.
Justin Thomas will tee it back up again this coming week at the Wells Fargo Championship. He’s never won the tournament itself. However, this year’s iteration will be held at Quail Hollow, the home of the 2017 PGA Championship which was Thomas’ first major.
The 2023 PGA Championship is just three weeks away at Oak Hill. Things are setting up quite nicely for Thomas to begin his rebound and ascension back into golf’s elite names.