By Chris Kudialis
Special to Tidesports.com
JERSEY CITY, NJ – The U.S. international team career of Justin Thomas as a professional debuted smoothly Thursday at Liberty National Golf Club as the former Crimson Tide golfer cruised with Rickie Fowler in the President’s Cup alternate-shot foursome format, winning 6 & 4 over International team opponents Hideki Matsuyama and Charl Schwartzel.
“I knew I was going to be nervous, but I shook off the butterflies,” Thomas said after the round, which ended only three hours after it began. “Once you get a few holes in, it starts to feel more normal.”
The point earned by the 24-year-old PGA Championship winner came as one of 3½ points for the U.S., who yielded just 1½ points to its opponent Thursday.
Thomas, the fourth-ranked player in the world, called eighth-ranked Fowler “a good partner,” saying the two know each other’s games “very well” from playing in tournaments and practicing together. Thomas and Fowler live in neighboring residences in Jupiter, Florida.
Fowler commended Thomas for shaking off nerves and a slow start, which saw the duo fall behind after two holes, before they rallied and eventually left the Matsuyama and Schwartzel pairing in the dust.
“Once we settled in we really got things going,” Fowler said.
Asked Thursday’s if Thomas and Fowler’s successful first round match may be the start of a long-term partnership for future Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup performances, U.S. Captain Steve Stricker was definitive in endorsing the two.
“They just love playing together and they know each other’s games very well,” Stricker said. “And that’s always good.”
Thomas had represented the United States in five separate international events as an amateur or junior golfer before making his men’s team national debut Thursday.