Justin Thomas is a rising star on the PGA Tour. While 2017 marks only his third full season competing at golf’s highest level, he has chalked up three wins already, becoming the youngest player ever to shoot an elusive 59, stands third in the race for the FedEx Cup and has elevated his status to seventh in the world. We caught up with Thomas just before heading to the Augusta National and the 2017 Masters.
How did you come to the game of golf?
My dad and grandpa were big golfers, and I think any boy wants to be like their dad. So growing up around him being at the golf course, it was an easy choice for me.
You’re off to a hot start this season. Why are things clicking for you right now?
Confidence more than anything when I'm playing well. When I am in control of my game and my short game is on, I feel like I’ll have a great chance to win any week I tee it up. And once I get in the heat of the moment, I'm very comfortable.
You made an eagle on the last to shoot a 59 in the first round at the Sony Open. What was going through your mind over that putt?
What my celebration would be when I made it, as funny as it is. I had a good feeling I would make that putt, and felt great over it. At that point it was all about getting the speed right.
When you’re having a round like that, how do you manage to stay in the moment and not get ahead of yourself?
Just taking it one shot at a time and not looking in the future. Trying to play each hole and each round the best that I can.
Was that the round of your life?
I shot a 62 (-10) in a junior event when I was 17 at Sage Valley. I'll never forget that day... I miss hit one shot, a 4 iron into a par 5 on the 15th hole, which I still hit the green and went on to 2 putt for birdie to move to -10 on the day and have a chance at 59. Never been in a zone like that before.
You let your driver go after a tee shot at the WGC Mexico Championship and it nearly hit the gallery. Have you thrown a club since?
Well, I didn't throw my driver. Any golfer would tell you there’s times your club gets in a position on a follow-through [where] you just can’t hold on and it goes. The ropes happened to be on the edge of the tee, and it came close to them. Quite often when I double-cross a shot, I try to save it and hold onto it and that happens. I don't ever throw clubs intentionally.
Many athletes believe very deeply in luck and streaks, are you superstitious? Do you have a good luck charm?
Yeah I am superstitious. I use certain divot tools or ball markers and will change from time to time depending on how I'm playing. If I play well/poorly in certain clothes, I’ll wear them more or never wear them again.
What is the tournament you want to win the most?
The British Open. I feel like people often say I am not good at controlled shots or hitting it low, and I feel I’m very good at it, just don't need to use it as often. And to win an Open championship, you need to have an all-around complete game.
This year you will make your second appearance at the Masters. What did you learn from last year’s tournament? What do you need to do to win?
Just patience and little course-management things. I knew about everything I needed to know, I was just playing poorly and couldn't expect much of a result out of myself. If I drive it well and am good around the greens, I will really like my chances.
Pimento Cheese or Egg Salad?
You celebrated your wins in Hawaii with a new Range Rover. Any other things on your wish list, perhaps as a post–major victory splurge?
I actually ordered that after Malaysia from the guys at Dreamworks in NC, it just took a bit to finish all the customizations. So everybody thought I ordered it after Hawaii [laughs]. I love shoes, clothes, and watches. So I could see a few of those in there.
Your spring break last year was epic. Is there a plan for this year?
Not sure if everybody's schedules work out for it. Everyone else will just have to wait and find out.
If you could only play one more round of golf, where would you play and with whom would you play it?
Since I was given no limit, I would pick about 20 of my best friends (my dad included) and go get some carts and a few cold beers and go play Augusta National. That sounds like a great last round to me!