The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY — Justin Thomas was the nation’s top college golfer at the University of Alabama, and now he’s No. 1 in the professional rankings.
Thomas won five PGA Tour titles in 2017, including the PGA Championship, to earn player of the year honors. He has carried on with two more wins already this year and holds the No. 1 ranking going into next week’s U.S. Open.
Now, he has picked up another honor: The Alabama Sports Writers Association’s pro athlete of the year. The award recognizes pro athletes who are from Alabama or competed collegiately in the state.
Thomas is the first golfer named Alabama’s pro athlete of the year since Jason Dufner in 2013. He has said his goal as a follow-up to such a big year was to be more consistent, or to “get my bad golf better.”
“No missed cuts. Have a chance to win more tournaments,” Thomas said earlier this year. “Living around the top 10 is something Tiger (Woods) did for a long time. He always had chances to win tournaments, and if he didn’t, he was always around, always on that first page of the leaderboard.”
Thomas ascended to the No. 1 ranking with a tie for 11th at THE PLAYERS Championship, ending Dustin Johnson’s 64-week reign.
He recently finished tied for eighth at the Memorial in his first week holding the top spot.
The eight-time PGA Tour winner turned pro in 2013 after helping Alabama win a national title in his sophomore season. Thomas won the Haskins Award and Nicklaus Award as the top college player.
His big breakthrough season professionally came last year when he joined Jack Nicklaus, Woods and Jordan Spieth as the only players since 1960 to capture five wins in a season, including a major, before turning 25. He also became the seventh player on the PGA Tour to shoot a 59 and led the United States to an eight-point victory over the International Team at the Presidents Cup.
Now, he’s determined to stay at the top. After moving to No. 1, Thomas told The Associated Press: “I’m very proud to have gotten there, but it means more to me how long I can hold it. Have to continue to work hard with how well so many guys are playing.”