Justin Thomas won another golf tournament on the PGA Tour Jan. 5 as he captured the Sentry Tournament of Champions for the second time (also winning it in 2017) — this one coming in a playoff with Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed.
A stellar standout for the University of Alabama from 2011-13, Thomas turned professional later in 2013 and the rest, as they say, is history.
His recent 12th PGA Tour win took him into the rarefied air of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead, each who won at least 12 times on tour before turning 27. Thomas will be 27 in April.
Let’s take a look at some facts and figures. In the 2019-20 season he has played four events and won two, with his other win coming at The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges (he must like this event as he also won it in 2018).
Continuing the multiples theme, his first tour win was the CIMB Classic in 2016, which he repeated the very next year. Thus six of his 12 wins have been duplications.
He also seems to have an affinity for Hawaii with his two Tournament of Champions titles coming in the Aloha state, plus the 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii.
No doubt his biggest win to date was his major triumph at the PGA Championship in 2017, a year he won an astounding five times and was the FedEx Cup champion. Capturing the famed Wanamaker Trophy at Quail Hollow, he became the second Crimson Tide golfer to win a major, along with Jerry Pate winning the 1976 U.S. Open.
He won the World Golf Championships 2018 Bridgestone Invitational, plus FedEx Cup Playoffs triumphs at the 2017 Dell Technologies Championship and 2019 BMW Championship.
For those of you counting at home, his other victory came in what is now a home game for him at the 2018 Honda Classic, near to his Jupiter, Fla. home. (He grew up in Goshen, Ky.).
Ranked No. 1 in this season’s FedEx Cup points, he has banked a little over $3.5 million already this season.
He is fourth in the Official World Golf Rankings and has won an astounding $34,192,811 in a little over five full years on the PGA Tour!
He played one year on the Web.com Tour (now called the Korn Ferry Tour) in 2014, capturing the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, which helped him earn his 2015 PGA Tour card, never having looked back.
All his strong play, both in the amateur and paid ranks, has meant he has a lot of team experience, playing on the following U.S. teams: 2012 Eisenhower Trophy; 2012 World Amateur Team Championship; 2012, 2013 Arnold Palmer Cup; 2013 Walker Cup; 2017, 2019 Presidents Cup; and 2018 Ryder Cup, with many, many more Ryder and Presidents Cups in his future.
He grew up on the golf course, as his father Mike is a PGA professional at Harmony Landing in Louisville, Ky., while Justin’s grandfather, Paul, was a 60-year member of the PGA of America. Mike and Jani Thomas, his mother, are often seen cheering him on at tournaments and his father is also his swing coach.
I think it is worth retelling the story of how Thomas came to play for the University of Alabama.
“I have an office (phone) line at the (Jerry) Pate Center, but I hardly ever use it or check messages. I use my cellphone for everything. I’m rarely in my office to be honest. Turns out Justin and his father had left me a voicemail (in fall 2008) saying they would like to visit as they were playing in the (AJGA’s) Polo (event) in South Florida and wanted to come by Ol’ Colony on their way home to Kentucky,” longtime UA head golf coach Jay Seawell told me in 2017 after Thomas’s PGA Championship win.
“Well, when I got that message it must have been, and I’m a little embarrassed to say this, around 40 days old. The Polo had come and gone.”
It was over Thanksgiving week that they played and traveled back.
“Despite not hearing from me, they came by Ol’ Colony, but it was closed for Thanksgiving and the gate was locked. They literally jumped the fence and took a look at the outside of the Pate Center.
“Justin must have been 14 or 15 then and I was actually at the Polo and watched him play, but (NCAA) rules mean you can’t talk to a player at an event. Somebody, after his ‘visit’, got him my cell number and we connected.”
Seawell was immediately interested in Thomas and Thomas became more and more interested in attending UA. Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt were freshmen when he came on an official visit and he joined them the next year.
“Did I know Justin would be a great player? I knew he had all the skills and was already a very good player.”
Her certainly hit the ground running at the Capstone, winning his first-ever college event. He didn’t look back and was named National Player of the Year his freshman year. He would play in UA’s team that lost in the final match of the NCAA Championship to Texas, which included his close friend Jordan Spieth. Spieth turned pro after his freshman year, with Thomas returning for the Tide.
Thomas and the Tide would go on to win the NCAA Championship his sophomore year and Seawell knew the writing was on the wall that he would leave.
“I told him to delay turning pro until after playing in the Walker Cup, which he did. I knew that would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“He is supremely comfortable in uncomfortable situations. He loves to be in that moment when everything is on the line,” Seawell noted when talking about Thomas’ prowess and ability to produce the goods when the pressure is highest. He’s a rare talent indeed playing in rarefied air.
Ian Thompson has been writing about golf in Alabama for over 27 years. His weekly “Mr. Golf” column concentrates on golfers, golf events and people associated with the sport of interest to the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham areas. Reach him with story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org