Spieth offers his thoughts on Thomas, Rodgers
To turn pro or to not turn pro?
That is the question that will surround Alabama junior Justin Thomas and Stanford junior Patrick Rodgers through the summer and into the early fall. Both are expected to participate in the Walker Cup this September – assuming they are selected to the team – and a decision will likely not come until after that.
“(I’ll make a decision) just whenever I feel it's right,” Thomas said three weeks ago. “I got a lot of thinking to do. I mean I got a lot of things I still gotta take care of the rest of the summer before I even worry about that, and I think that's what a lot of people are kind of assuming, that I need to know soon.”
Thomas and Rodgers have maintained their focus on playing golf, not about whether or not they will return to school in the fall. So for now, they’ll be concentrated on this week’s task of playing in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, which also has former Texas standout Jordan Spieth in the field.
Spieth, who turned pro last winter following the fall semester of his sophomore year with the Longhorns, knows a little about what Thomas and Rodgers are going through. He’s experienced playing in pro tournaments as an amateur and is friends with both players – he played with Rodgers in the last Walker Cup and is staying with Thomas, whom he talks to frequently, this week at the John Deere.
Two weeks ago at the AT&T National, Golfweek asked Spieth for his thoughts on the situation.
“All three of us go way back; (They are) very, very good players,” Spieth said. “I don't think they'll have any problem getting out here on their talent. They've shown that in the starts that they've had on the PGA (Tour). . . . Obviously the stage doesn't bother them.”
Spieth said he hasn’t given them any advice on what they should do, nor does he know what they are thinking. He does joke with them, though, about it.
“I keep on kind of messing with Justin, telling him, ‘Hey man, good playing last week. Now it's time to turn pro. I mean, good job,’” Spieth said. “And he gets a couple laughs out of that and says, ‘We'll see.’”
Thomas, who like Spieth has a national championship on his resume, has had success on the pro stage. He’s made the cut in all three of his PGA Tour starts, including finishing T-30 this year at the Travelers Championship.
Rodgers is making his third PGA Tour start this week at TPC Deere Run. He missed the cut in each of his previous two starts, last year’s Travelers Championship and John Deere Classic. He’s also made two Web.com Tour starts, including this year’s United Leasing Championship, and missed the cut in both. But there’s no denying he has the talent to compete at the pro level.
“Once you set certain goals and you accomplish them and you get to play out on Tour as an amateur, you're able to compete and kind of finish it off even when you feel the heat, I think that's when you know you're ready,” Spieth said. “That's when I knew I was ready. Obviously Justin's doing that now. Patrick has done that. It's just up to them.”
Seeing the success Spieth has had since turning pro could influence Thomas and Rodgers.
Spieth has notched five top-10s, including a runner-up finish, on Tour this season and has virtually locked up his Tour card for next season.
“At this time last year, I still thought I was going to be there (at Texas) for at least another year; I remember that specifically,” Spieth said. “But I played a couple more Tour events in the summer and played well and started to think, ‘When's the right time to turn (pro)?’ And (I) decided that it would be in the winter so I could give myself at least a few events to play in the fall and give a full year to earn my card.
“There's a lot of luck involved in the way it's worked out, but I'm happy that the plan was accomplished.”
We still don’t know Thomas or Rodgers’ plans, though, so it’s still unclear whether they’ll follow in Spieth’s footsteps later this year.