Spotlight on Justin Thomas: Taking a closer look at his past, present and future

The 28-year-old American is one of the stars of the modern game but he’s gone four years without adding to his first Major Championship triumph.

"I know that being a Major Champion will never be taken away from my name," Justin Thomas said after claiming the 2017 PGA Championship.

"I know you can't get to two unless you get one. So I'm excited to have this and it's incredible. It was an awesome day and a great experience. It's huge for me.

"Hopefully I'm going to win some more, plenty more, a lot more, whatever. But I mean, who knows what will happen."

His excitement was understandable and deserved, yet it turns out he was also right to add a corrective because instead of adding to his haul he has, in fact, remained stuck on one.

Can he change that in 2022? Let's take a closer look.

Past

Thomas graduated in style from the second tier Korn Ferry Tour in late 2014 and quickly impressed on the main tour, peaking in 2017.

He opened that year with back-to-back victories in Hawaii, threatened to win a first WGC event in Mexico, landed a first Major Championship top 10 in the US Open, and then triumphed in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

By the year's end, he has landed five titles. A prolific winner had emerged, with many expecting more Major triumph would quickly follow.

The first part of that equation proved true: he won twice in 2018, 2019 and 2020, but a second Major win has proved elusive.

Present

The curtailed year between August 2019 and August 2020 was good to Thomas. In that period he played 17 times, landing 11 top 10s, three of them wins.

But since the last of those victories in the WGC St Jude Invitational he has struggled to convert good mid-tournament positions into wins.

In fact, in his last 28 starts he was tied sixth or better after 18, 36 or 54 holes 14 times - and yet only at THE PLAYERS Championship did he lift the trophy.

Future

One tick in the box is the new man on his bag - Phil Mickelson's old caddie 'Bones' Mackay.

"The exciting part about it is that we're already very confident," he said at the CJ Cup. "I feel like we can do a lot of great things, but at the same time we're just going to continue to learn, and know each other better and better, and hopefully get more comfortable."

At the Tour Championship, he also insisted that he was near to his best.

"State of my game is good," he said. "But in terms of the year, golf-wise I would call it a poor year. I didn't play very well in the Majors. I won THE PLAYERS. That was my only win. So I got off to a good start and just kind of stalled.

"I have been working probably harder than I ever have and I've travelled more than I ever have this year. But I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to where I need to be. I'm mentally in a lot better state than I was in the middle, second third of the year, where I just wasn't really in a very good place mentally."

The 2022 Majors

Thomas isn't happy with his efforts in the Majors and it's easy to see why.

He's played 24 of them and has only twice finished top five.

It will also concern him that he contends so little in them because Majors tend to be overwhelmingly won by golfers positioned in the top six at 54 holes.

Thomas is steady at the Masters (six starts, top 25 in each of his last five, fourth in 2020). But that latter result is the only time he was in touch with 18 holes to play and it happened the year the course was soft owing to the unusual November date.

He won the PGA Championship in 2017, of course, and was sixth on defence, but in three of his six starts he finished outside the top 30.

He has four top 25s, two of them top 10s, from seven starts at the US Open. In 2017 he was second after three rounds before finishing ninth. That result is instructive. It gifted him experience of being in the heat of battle and shortly after he won the PGA Championship.

At the Open he's finished outside the top 40 in four of his five appearances, with a best of T11th at Royal Portrush in 2019.

His Major chances in 2022? He needs to start winning regular events and contending in the big ones first. You'd probably fancy him best in the PGA Championship. However, at the prices, he looks short given those shortcomings.

READ MORE: Justin Thomas 'excited' to get front-row seat for Tiger Woods return

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