By any standards, 2017 was a remarkable year for Titleist Brand Ambassador Justin Thomas. He won five times on the PGA Tour, including a title defense at the CIMB Classic and an Aloha Sweep in which he won back-to-back tournaments at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in Hawaii.
At the Sony, he fired an opening-round 59, becoming the youngest of just seven players in PGA Tour history to break the 60. He also set the record for lowest score in relation to par at a U.S. Open when he fired a 9-under-par 63, and ultimately capped off the year by earning the FedExCup title as well as Player of the Year Honors.
But the icing on the cake was undeniably his two-stroke victory in August at Quail Hollow, where he captured his first major title at the PGA Championship.
As we look forward to the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club, Team Titleist caught up with Justin for a look back at his biggest victory to date and some insights into the last major of the season.
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Team Titleist (TT): Now that the title “Major Champion” is attached to your name, do you feel differently about yourself or your game?
Justin Thomas (JT): I would say I have more inner confidence. Winning the tournaments I have, the way I have, is one thing. But doing it in a major against the deepest field in golf gives me a whole new level of confidence when I get in contention.
TT: Is there a different mindset being the defending champion at a major?
JT: I don’t think so. I still just have to go through my routine of being as ready as possible for when I tee it up on Thursday. What happened last year is over, now it’s time to focus on what’s next.
TT: When looking back at your win last year, what was your most memorable shot?
JT: The 7-iron on No. 17, hands down. Having a 1-shot lead with arguably two of the hardest finishing holes you can think of, trying to win my first major, it would have been very easy to make a bogey on one if not both of the last two holes. I was confident and I had the perfect club and will never forget that shot.
TT: Your cliffhanger putt on No. 10 is one of the most memorable highlights in PGA Championship history. When that putt fell, did you feel like it might be your day?
JT: I did and didn’t. I had eight holes left, and I wasn’t even winning the tournament. I felt like it was my day because I was playing so well and in such great control of my emotions all week. When that putt fell, I was just excited to gain one stroke on the field.
TT: Your chip-in for birdie on No. 13 last year – can you talk about the technique you use to hit such a delicate shot from that sticky, into-the-grain lie?
JT: The first cut around the greens was very awkward to chip out of, and because of the grain I used my Vokey 56.14 (bent to a 57) wedge. I felt the bounce I had on that wedge would help it not dig as much and I just chopped down on it to make sure I hit ball first and got the ball rolling toward the hole.
TT: You’ve been asked a lot about your Dad and Grandfather, who are both PGA Professionals. Do you feel like your first major honored them, as well?
JT: Any tournament win is for my team, not just myself. But that one for sure had a special feeling to my dad and grandpa. Both being PGA members, like myself, it was something really cool we all were able to share together.
TT: You’re now playing a new TS driver (TS3 - 9.5°) and fairway metal (TS3 - 15°). How easy was the transition and how will these new clubs help you at Bellerive Country Club?
JT: It was very easy to transition, as it always is. The ball was instantly faster coming off the face of the new TS driver and I was able to get a few more yards of carry when needed. More importantly for me, my spin numbers were more consistent, therefore it has helped me drive the ball much better. The TS fairway metal has given me a little more spin which gives me control and I can easily fly it 280-285 off the tee if needed, which is such a great asset and club to have.
TT: Where do you keep your Wannamaker Trophy and is there enough room beside it for a second one?
JT: There’s PLENTY of room for MANY more!!!! It’s on a mantle above my fireplace in my house. Next to my Fed Ex Cup, and my Player of the Year trophy. It’s getting lonely without another major championship trophy next to it...
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Good luck at Bellerive, Justin!