Justin Thomas opens up on ‘unfathomable’ comeback at Southern Hills

The American reflected on his US PGA win ahead of this week’s PGA Tour event, the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas.

Justin Thomas was expected to win multiple Majors when he captured his first one, the US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in 2017.

Thomas was just 24 at the time and victory came during a 10-month hot-streak that saw him collect four PGA Tour titles.

JT was a surefire hit: perhaps the next American golfing superstar.

But before last week's US PGA the wins had started to dry up a little.

During a 29-month stretch from early January 2020, Thomas managed to add just two more titles having raced to 12 in quickfire time.

They were the WGC-FedEx St. Jude in August 2020 and The Players Championship in March 2021.

When he started the final round of last week's US PGA seven shots off the pace and then lost further ground on the front nine, another win and a second Major title looked remote to say the least.

But Thomas likes a Sunday charge.

At St. Jude in the summer of 2020 he posted a closing 65 to take the title. And in The Players last year, a closing 68 at Sawgrass swept him to victory.

With that sort of history, perhaps it wasn't that big a surprise that he should come through and take the silverware at Southern Hills after setting the clubhouse target and eventually winning a three-hole play-off against compatriot Will Zalatoris.

And yet Thomas admitted it was still hard to take in.

Justin Thomas with the US PGA Championship trophy

Asked in his press conference at this week's Charles Schwab Challenge if he could comprehend what happened, Thomas said: "I can't!

"I haven't had a chance to watch the full coverage on Sunday, which I'd like to, but I did happen to see, when I was putting on nine, I was eight back. I was eight back with 10 holes to go. That's unfathomable.

"If I was looking at leaderboards, I probably would not have thought I even had a chance to win. It's a huge learning lesson for me. You've got to play golf. Those Majors and in golf tournaments, anything can happen.

"I just kind of kept plugging along, and somehow it happened."

Thomas was also asked to compare and contrast his two US PGA victories.

"They were very different," he said. "I was much more so in contention starting the day at Quail Hollow.

"Going into the back nine I think I was one or two back, and once I got to 13 or 14 I had the lead, so I was playing with the lead and I was trying to build it or maintain it versus coming from behind, obviously, and trying to chase a little bit more so.

"It's fun; when you have the opportunity to win multiple times in different ways, you're able to learn from each experience, and I was able to learn from both of those in different ways that hopefully will help me more going down the road.

"The five years has felt like an eternity since Quail Hollow, and yeah, definitely glad that I could finally answer the question of when am I going to get my second versus just being a one-hit wonder, if you will."

Justin Thomas wins the 2022 PGA Champs

Since winning that first US PGA crown, Thomas hasn't managed a single top 10 on the six occasions he's played the week after a Major.

He'll try to change that stat at Colonial this week, a course where he's played twice previously.

2021 - 40th (72-66-71-69)

2020 - 10th (64-68-66-71)

Thomas was also tied fifth on his previous start in Texas a fortnight ago when closing 64-67 on the weekend at the Byron Nelson Classic.

In the rest of his Wednesday press conference, Thomas talked about his schedule since winning last Sunday and what he thinks of his week's course.

On the aftermath of his US PGA win

"It was obviously a very fun and whirlwind of a weekend. We stayed in Tulsa Sunday night, so just kind of hung out. We didn't get home until pretty late. I was exhausted.

"We came here Monday morning, just came in, got settled, had some lunch. They have a great gym facility setup here, so I came and worked out. I feel like for me that's a good, I don't know if I want to say reset, but just good to kind of sweat and get my body moving a little bit, and then just kind of lounge.

"Then yesterday morning I just came out and practised some and relaxed in the afternoon. I'm trying to make my practice sessions this week short but very, very efficient so that I can just go back and rest and kind of catch back up on all that."

On trying to stay motivated after a big win

"Obviously I want to enjoy it and I don't want to just act like it didn't happen because it did, but at the same time I have a week next week off potentially to just enjoy it and have some time with my family and friends if we choose to.

"I have a golf tournament this week, and I'm just trying to perform and play as well as I possibly can, and hopefully give us something else to celebrate."

On the challenges of Colonial

"This course is right in front of you, very similar to last week in terms of off the tee you know what you're getting and you can play it hitting a lot of different clubs off tees.

"You can play it very conservatively and put the ball in the fairway, kind of play to the doglegs or you can take a lot of drivers and kind of send it over some bunkers or over some doglegs and potentially make it a lot shorter.

"Playing from the fairway is very, very important here. The greens were very soft this morning with the rain last night and I guess into this morning, but with the wind that they potentially have forecasted, it can firm up by the weekend, which makes this place play pretty difficult."

READ MORE: Charles Schwab Challenge: How do the big guns perform the week after a Major?

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