Can Justin Thomas replicate his 2017 PGA Championship winning form at Quail Hollow this week?

The 28-year-old found success playing the course in August, but is yet to land a top five playing this tournament in May.

Justin Thomas is in a happy place this week.

"A lot of great memories," he said of returning to the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, scene of his 2017 PGA Championship triumph.

"It's great to be back. It's almost four years since the PGA and I'm excited that I get to sneak in the Champions locker room area.

"But I just love Charlotte, I love the fans here, I love the golf course."

As content as he sounds, there are a few issues he'll want to address ahead of his Thursday tee time.

There's his putting, which he was unsatisfied with last week at Innisbrook.

There is also, his form - the sense that, despite an impressive victory in THE PLAYERS Championship, he's getting into contention a lot, but not quite finding the killer instinct.

Victory at TPC Sawgrass, but a rarer Sunday treat than it might be.
Victory at TPC Sawgrass, but a rarer Sunday treat than it might be.

And there's the fact that his performances in the Wells Fargo Championship have not quite been up to the same standard of his Major Championship win at this venue.

Let's take a look at all those issues in more detail.

The putting

Thomas' long game was sensational last week at the Valspar Championship: he led the field for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, Approach and Tee to Green.

So why was it that he finished T13th?

Simple explanation: his putting.

Having gained over 13 strokes on the field with that long game, he handed back six and a half of them on the greens, ranking 67th.

"It wasn't like something was really that off," he insisted this week.

"I hit a lot of really, really good putts, a lot of quality putts. Everything fundamentally was pretty good, just the ball wasn't going in.

"You have weeks like that, I felt good over the putter on Thursday and Friday and just nothing went in.

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"Then I got into some of my old tendencies of opening the putting face too much going back and then dragging it a little bit, gives me a hard time getting the putter face square. I was fighting that a little bit over the weekend.

"But overall, as a whole, I felt like they're very difficult greens to read. You have a lot of grain that kind of goes opposite of the slopes and a lot of subtle ridges. Clearly Sam Burns didn't feel that way, but nothing was going in for me."

Getting into contention

With two victories in his last 25 starts, one the WGC St Jude Invitational and the other "the fifth Major", most golfers would be happy.

But Thomas is a man who aims high.

He wants to win Majors, to win a lot of tournaments not just a couple, he wants to be the World No. 1.

In one sense, therefore, the fact that in those last 25 appearances he has found himself bang in contention (in the top five) with 18 holes to play 11 times would be a good thing - Jack Nicklaus always argued that the key to success was hanging around the lead and letting everyone else make a mess of things rather than doing anything special when you got there.

Nonetheless, turning just two of those opportunities into wins must nag, especially as, to those numerous excellent 54 hole positions, you can add his two recent efforts at the Masters.

Last November he he was tied for the lead after 36 holes, but a Sunday 71 left him tied sixth heading into the final round and too far back to make an impact.

In April he was tied sixth, three shots back of the lead, at halfway, but his weekend response of 75-73 left him T21st.

At Quail Hollow

He's always played the course well at the weekend, the problem has been getting himself into a good position ahead of Friday's cull.

On debut in 2015 he started with a 69, but a second round 73 left him T42nd and too far back. The 65-70 which followed left him tied seventh.

The following year he shot 73-75 to miss the cut and in 2018 he again opened with a 73 (T79th) before making good progress thereafter (69-70-70) for T21st.

In the 2017 PGA Championship that nasty number 73 repeated itself in round one, but this time his reaction was scintillating: 66-69 got him into the top two after 54 holes and a final round 68 clinched the title.

A concern for him this week might be the putter again.

In his three full weeks at Quail Hollow he has always ranked top 15 for SG Tee to Green, but in the three regular PGA Tour starts in May he always lost strokes to the field on the greens, whereas in in the Major in August he gained over seven and ranked fourth.

Those numbers are repeated in traditional stats: solid Greens in Regulation stats, but a Putting Average of 1.826 in regular events and 1.60 (second in the field) in the PGA.

Conclusion

He's best price 11/1 joint favourite with Bet365 and if you believe that he's turned a corner with the putter, the notion of a decent performance with the flat stick, allied to the long game excellence and good course vibes, is a tempting one.

But it might be wise to watch for what happens ahead of the cut (keeping an eye on his putting stats).

In the first round he is paired with Viktor Hovland and Patrick Cantlay.

Remember, Thomas has carded three 73s in his four Thursday rounds, with a 69 on debut. He's 5/4 with BetVictor.

Cantlay is having form problems of his own. He hasn't broken 70 in nine laps, hasn't played weekend golf in his last four starts and his last three first rounds have left him outside the top 60. He shot 72-71-72-72 in his only previous course start. He's 11/5 with the same firm.

Hovland is a course debutant whose best recent golf has been at the weekend, but in his last ten starts he beat par seven times in round one and equalled it twice.

He could be the best call at 2/1 with BetVictor.

READ MORE: Fairway or Fowler: Can Rickie Fowler use good memories of Quail Hollow to revive his form this week?

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