Justin Thomas determined to keep major momentum going this time

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Justin Thomas determined to keep major momentum going this time

PGA Tour

Justin Thomas determined to keep major momentum going this time

CHARLOTTE — Justin Thomas has shown flashes in major championships this season. He’s just trying to finally put everything together and win one of them.

Thomas, 24, jumped into contention Friday at the 99th PGA Championship with a 5-under 66 around a soft and long Quail Hollow Club. He made just one bogey and put six birdies on the card to move to 3 under on the leaderboard, five shots back of co-leaders Hideki Matsuyama and Kevin Kisner.

“Got myself back in the tournament,” Thomas said shortly after the horn blew ending play for the day because of darkness with nine groups still yet to complete their second rounds.

“… I’m just going to be happy that my name is up the leaderboard. It’s nice to show some better form. I’ve been working really hard. Hopefully, just have two more days to have same.”

For Thomas, that consistency has been a challenge in majors this year. At the Masters, the Louisville, Ky., native shot 3 under on the weekend, but after opening rounds of 73-76 he could only climb to T-22. Two months later at the U.S. Open, he fired a 9-under 63 to tie what was then a major-championship record, but a final-round 75 left him at T-9. Then at the British Open, he opened in 3-under 67 before missing the cut on the heels of a second-round 80.

“That’s over with and long forgotten,” Thomas said.

Thomas is an immensely talented but streaky player. He entered the week with three missed cuts and a T-28 in four starts since the U.S. Open. Of course, earlier this year he won three times, including a World Golf Championships event last fall. So it’s not like Thomas doesn’t know how to close out wins.

But in majors, he still has much to prove. And if he keeps playing himself out of them with one bad round or two, it could start to affect him.

The simple solution is to keep playing the way he did Friday. Thomas said he worked on his driving with instructor and dad, Mike Thomas, after an opening 73. But it was his short game that was much improved in Round 2. Thomas went from gaining just 0.510 shots on the greens and 0.762 shots around the greens on Thursday, to 3.373 and 2.021, respectively, on Friday.

Not even a rain delay late in his round could derail Thomas. He did lose momentum, but was still able to play his final three holes — Nos. 16-18, the tough stretch dubbed “The Green Mile” — in even par.

“I didn’t play very well after I came out when it was really soft; that was a bummer,” Thomas said. “But I had some great par saves.”

Asked if he still has a chance to win, Thomas answered the no-brainer of a question.

“Absolutely,” Thomas said. “I can make up five shots in nine holes, let alone 36 holes. I mean, there’s lot of things that can happen.”

And a lot of time for Thomas to prove himself a major champion.

 

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