Justin Thomas on Holmes slow-play criticism: 'I have J.B.'s back all day'

LAHAINA, HI - JANUARY 04: Justin Thomas of the United States reacts during the first round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club on January 4, 2018 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

Justin Thomas on Holmes slow-play criticism: 'I have J.B.'s back all day'

PGA Tour

Justin Thomas on Holmes slow-play criticism: 'I have J.B.'s back all day'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – In the wake of slow-play critics taking aim at J.B. Holmes, another Kentuckian, Justin Thomas, made it clear what side of the debate he is on.

“I have J.B.’s back all day on that situation,” Thomas said Wednesday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. “It bothered me and I hate it for him. I went up to him (Tuesday) and told him … it was a great tournament for him, but I have a hard time saying I wouldn’t do anything differently than he did.”

Holmes received criticism for taking 4 minutes, 10 seconds to hit his second shot on the par-5 18th hole Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open. With winds gusting and Holmes playing in the final group – and with a chance to win the tournament – Holmes debated whether to go for the green with 5-wood or lay up. He needed eagle to tie clubhouse leader Jason Day (who eventually won in a playoff).

“If you put me in 18 fairway and I need an eagle to win the golf tournament or to have a chance to win the golf tournament, I mean I knew the exact position he was in and I would do the same thing,” Thomas said. “If I have a 5-wood in my hands – and he hits it pretty similar trajectory to me – that thing’s going to go high. And into the wind, he’s into about a 10- to 15-mph wind, that wind gusts at all, like it was, when he was waiting for the gusts to go down, that ball’s in the water. Three-wood, as long as he hits it, has no chance. You saw where (Alex) Noren hit it and J.B.’s probably longer than Noren, so and then he’s got no chance.

“So he’s debating what to do, what to not do. I get it, 4 minutes, 10 seconds is a long time, but nobody behind him, last hole, you need a ‘3’ to win the golf tournament, you need to take as long as you can.”

Holmes said that he lost track of time while preparing for arguably his most important shot of the tournament. Thomas wholeheartedly believes Holmes, saying that “there was zero intention to ice Alex.”

“That’s not what this sport’s about, that’s not what he’s about,” Thomas said.

Said Holmes in talking to Golf Channel: “If it bothered Alex, he could have said something and he could have hit. If I messed him up, I apologize.”

Thomas added that slow play is a problem on the PGA Tour, but when it came to time par Sunday at Torrey Pines, there was nothing that could reasonably have been done for players to hit those marks. High winds and tough pins on a final round of a tournament? Slow play is, unfortunately, a forgone conclusion.

“The fact that there’s an overall time par, no matter what, is pointless,” Thomas said. “It makes no sense. Like I said, you get 25-mph winds, the wind’s gusting, it’s not fair for us to have to hit a shot because of the wind gust and we’re over water. I’m not going to hit this shot; I need to back off, change clubs, (that) type thing.”

Thomas added that scenarios like the one seen Sunday at the Farmers is something that “we have really tried to talk about a lot on the Tour.”

And to put all the blame on Holmes for the excruciatingly slow pace last Sunday? That’s unfair, Thomas says.

“It was a bummer, I hate it for him, how much he’s getting bashed and ridiculed,” Thomas said. “… When you’re trying to win a golf tournament, this sport is very much about committing and being a 100 percent being all in on what you’re doing. I honestly applaud him for waiting and making the decision until he was ready, because he was just trying to win the tournament.”

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