Justin Thomas feels spring chill before Masters

Justin Thomas 2017 Masters Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Sports

Justin Thomas feels spring chill before Masters

PGA Tour

Justin Thomas feels spring chill before Masters

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – It wasn’t long ago that Justin Thomas was the hottest golfer on the PGA Tour. He notched three victories in five starts earlier this season, two of them where Hideki Matsuyama, equally blistering around the turn of the calendar year, finished second. He became the youngest player in Tour history to shoot 59. The checks piled up, enough to allow Thomas to splurge on a brand-new custom Range Rover.

The catalyst for Thomas’ stellar play?

“I was confident, playing well, driving it well. I would say the biggest thing is the short game. I was not making very many bogeys,” Thomas said. “… But at the end of the day … I can’t really give you any sort of crazy answer other than I was just playing well.”

Just a crazy as Thomas collected trophies earlier this season, he lost that momentum. The tee shots got loose, the short game stopped bailing him out and the putts stopped falling. Since winning the Sony Open, Thomas, often a streaky player, has missed three of five cuts and failed to make it out of group play at the WGC-Dell Match Play.

Yet the Goshen, Ky., native enters the 89th Masters in a relaxed state.

Before his Masters debut last year, Thomas was a little overzealous with his preparation, logging 6- to 8-hour days early in tournament week. He tied for 39th but wasn’t thrilled with his performance.

A year later, Thomas enters his second Masters start with the mindset of a veteran. He knows course knowledge is crucial at Augusta, so he’s picked the brains of guys like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. But so is clarity of the mind.

“You don’t want to collect too much information because then you’re going to be … just kind of overflowing with information,” Thomas said. “But I feel like if you get enough of it, you can kind of pick up the stuff that you didn’t know or pick up the stuff that you feel is very, very important and use that.”

The time he has spent gearing up for the year’s first major has been beneficial. This past weekend, Thomas worked with his instructor – and dad – Mike Thomas, a PGA professional at Harmony Landing Golf Course in Goshen.

Thomas went nearly a month during his stretch of poor play without making a visit to see dad before returning to pops right before the Match Play.

“Just those four weeks, when you play consecutively like that, if you’re swinging well, it’s great,” Thomas said. “But if you weren’t, like I was, then you get into some bad habits and that’s when you really start hitting it poorly.”

Thomas seems confident the work he’s put in before this week will prepare him well for the demands of Augusta National, where ball placement and short game is key.

Even if he doesn’t have his A-game, like he did in Mexico last month (he tied for fifth), Thomas knows he can still get himself into contention.

“I’m very, very comfortable when I get in contention,” Thomas said, “so I just need to work on getting there more often.”

Once he does, the trophies – and green jacket, possibly? – are sure to come in bunches.

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