Justin Thomas normally hits his 5-iron about 230 yards. On Tuesday at Carnoustie’s 18th hole, Thomas struck one that rolled out to about 305 yards.
“If you get it downwind and you hit kind of that little flat draw and it gets running,” Thomas said. “It will go pretty much until it runs into something.”
Thomas, the world’s second-ranked golfer, is hoping his struggles at the British Open hit the proverbial wall. He tied for 53rd in his Open debut two years ago at Royal Troon and missed the cut last year at Royal Birkdale despite opening in 67. (His second-round 80 included a triple at the opening hole and a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth.)
“Two years ago, I was on the bad side of the draw, and it was very difficult to make up ground that way,” Thomas said. “But then last year I really just had two terrible holes that caused me to miss the cut and not have a chance.”
The 25-year-old Thomas doesn’t feel like he’s a bad links player. He’s been confident flighting the necessary shots required at this championship, and remembers two years ago during a British Open practice round with Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler when Butch Harmon complemented a particular knockdown 9-iron that Thomas hit.
“Man, you’ve just gotten so much better at that shot,” Harmon told Thomas. “You used to not be able to do that.”
Since last year’s British Open, Thomas has proven himself capable of winning a major championship. He won the PGA Championship last summer at Quail Hollow Club, so he’s comfortable winning on the big stage.
Yet he still feels the need to show he has what it takes on links courses. Bringing home a Claret Jug would be nice.
“I love this tournament,” Thomas said. “This is one that I really hope to get at least once or twice or however many times in my career, and it’s just a very, very special event. … It would mean a lot. I can’t necessarily put it into words because I think it’s just one of those things you can’t describe unless it happens. It would be extremely, extremely special, just the amount of history that goes into this tournament. I’ve always felt this would be one of my more favorite wins that I could have as a player because it just takes such a wide variety of golf shots and such a complete game, if you will, to win here as opposed to a lot of courses in the States you just hit it high and far, you try to stop it close to the hole, and you make the putts, whereas here you really have to use all assets of your game.
“So I think it would mean a lot for my career.”
Thomas said he doesn’t like to touch major-championship trophies until he wins them. Yet he’s broken that superstition on two occasions.
When he was 9 years old, he posed for a photo with David Toms’ Wanamaker Trophy. And two years ago, he drank wine out of Zach Johnson’s Claret Jug from his 2015 British Open win at St. Andrews.
Well, Thomas earned himself a Wanamaker last year. Maybe the Claret Jug will come his way Sunday at Carnoustie.