Notebook: Thomas bounces back after T-39 finish

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas

Men's Rankings »

RankNameSchoolRating
1Joey GarberGeorgia  68.65 
2Robby SheltonAlabama  68.65 
3Patrick RodgersStanford  68.71 
4Ollie SchniederjansGA Tech  68.85 
5Cameron WilsonStanford  69.10 

Men's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1Alabama 68.97 
2Georgia Tech 69.68 
3Georgia 69.68 
4Oklahoma State 69.77  10 
5California 69.86  11 

It didn’t take long for Justin Thomas to bounce back after the worst finish of his collegiate career.

The Alabama sophomore finished T-39 at the Southern Highland Collegiate Masters March 8-10 in Las Vegas. But a week later, Thomas notched his second individual victory of the season, shooting 9-under 207 to capture the Schenkel Invitational.

“It was big,” Thomas said. “It’s been a bit of a struggle lately. I’m playing well, just wasn’t really getting anything to go my way. It was frustrating.”

Not only did Thomas’ victory end a recent string of disappointing finishes – Thomas also was T-26 in his title defense at the Jones Cup in late January – but it also put him back in the Haskins Award conversation. Thomas is trying to become the first person since Phil Mickelson to win the Haskins Award as college golf’s player of the year in two consecutive seasons.

“He struggled a little, for him, and wasn’t playing very well,” Alabama coach Jay Seawell said. “Putts that dropped for him last year weren’t dropping, shots were bouncing a different way. It was just a matter of putting it all together.

“I’m very proud of him. He did a great job of preparing (coming into the Schenkel). It’s always nice to see guys who work hard get rewarded like that.”

Thomas, ranked No. 11 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, now has a school-record six career collegiate victories, including conference and regional titles in his freshman season, which included nine top 10s and three other finishes of 22nd or better.

And while his sophomore season with the Crimson Tide hasn’t measured up to his freshman campaign up to this point, Thomas has still played some of the best golf in the country. He closed last fall with a win at the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate and a joint runner-up finish at Isleworth, and started the spring with a T-12 showing at the Puerto Rico Classic.

“It was weird because all last year I never felt that good heading into tournaments,” Thomas said. “This year, I’ve felt good entering every tournament, just got some bad breaks.”

He also leads the team with a 70.83 scoring average in eight events and has posted a team-high 16 rounds of par or better.

“He’s a great player, but sometimes when you have a lot of expectations on you, you start to try too hard at times,” Seawell said. “He’s done a great job of getting back to the basics, and good things have happened.”

With Thomas back to winning golf tournaments, along with the strong play of Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt – both of whom boast scoring averages in the 71s – Alabama nears April as one of the top teams in the country.

Ranked second by Golfweek, the Crimson Tide have won three times this season to go along with three other finishes of third or better. So far this spring, Alabama has finished first, tied for second and first in its first three tournaments.

It’s only non-win of the spring came at Southern Highlands, where the Crimson Tide finished 13 shots behind top-ranked California.

“We’re a good team, but I don’t think we’re playing our best golf yet,” Seawell said. “(To win a national championship) we’re going to have to peak at the right time and have everyone on the same page, and I think we’re still in the beginning stages of that.”

Said Thomas: “I think we have a team that can beat anyone.”

• • •

WELL-DONE: Florida State’s Daniel Berger has had an ideal start to the spring season.

He opened the spring with a victory at the Gator Invitational, followed with a T-2 finish at the USF Invitational and then won his second career collegiate title last weekend at the Seminole Intercollegiate.

“The last three (tournaments) have been awesome,” said Berger, a sophomore who is ranked fifth by Golfweek.

Berger’s most recent individual victory helped the Seminoles capture their host tournament for the third time in the past four seasons. It was also the fourth straight time that a Florida State player had captured medalist honors at the event.

He’s had recent success on the amateur circuit, as well. He won the Dixie Amateur by 13 shots in December and was T-9 at the Jones Cup earlier this year.

“He's just an extremely talented player that's just getting better and better,” Florida State coach Trey Jones said. “The more he puts himself in the situation I think the better he'll be. We're fortunate that he's getting better and he's carrying our golf bag.”

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