On the 27th of February of this year, Justin Thomas did what lots of aspirational people at the top of their profession do.
He wrote down his goals for the forthcoming year.
The most notable, amongst others, were;
- Win the Tour Championship
- Win at least once
- Win a Major
- Under 70 scoring average
I am sure that many golfers set goals at the start of the year, and it would be interesting to see the notes app in the iPhones of Rory Mcilroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. However, this kind of confidence, and then subsequent execution, is exceptional.
In golf’s yester-year, we saw some of the best the world has ever seen. Player, Palmer, Nicklaus, Snead, Hogan. However, it was Tiger Woods who did things that the world did not even conceive of.
What we are seeing now – with the likes of Thomas and others – is the equal and opposite reaction of the Woods era. Young guys that absolutely believe that they can match what they watched at the 1997 Masters, 2000 US Open, 2006 Open, 2008 US Open, etcetera.
Which is more impressive, thinking it or doing it?
What Justin Thomas represents is the pinnacle of the steep pyramid that is professional golf. There are hundreds of thousands of prospective golfers all trying to mimic his rapid ascendancy to the top of the game, and the reality is that the vast majority of those will not make it.
However, what makes JT one of the best, is his belief “to do it when it has to be done.” As reflected by his predictions in February, elite sports people have a habit of creating self-fulfilling prophecies. Just ask Conor McGregor.
All Professionals at the top of the game have put the hard yards in, and, for the most part, are similar in terms of talent. But it is the mental capacity to have no doubt that you can pull off the particular shot in front of you.
When Thomas stood on the 17th hole at Quail Hollow – a par 3 that no one had got even close to the flag with water short, left and long – he hit the best shot of his life to make the birdie and win the tournament. It is these moments, when you could be thinking about a whole host of things, that the best thrive.
Lower floor but a higher ceiling?
Time to talk about the elephant in the room, Jordan Spieth.
There is no one better at getting the ball in the hole, and what he did coming down the stretch at The Open Championship was nothing short of laughable. He has re-written the definition of “clutch”, and it has been wonderful to watch.
But – and this goes against a lot of my principles going against a guy with four majors at the tender age of 24 – I do believe JT has a higher ceiling than Jordan. The range of shots he can hit are more varied than Spieth, and whilst he does not have the putting calibre, his length off the tee gives him significant advantage at US Open and PGA venues.
By the same token, is his floor lower that Spieth? Absolutely. The Texan is the more consistent of the two, and will certainly give himself more chances throughout their careers.
What is ahead in the years to come
2017 on the PGA Tour will be remembered as the year when the younger generation wrestled away control from the older guard. Performances from Koepka, Schauffele, Spieth, and Thomas will live long in the memory.
This season will have the likes of Mcilroy, Fowler, Rose and Johnson, beginning to look over their shoulder. As whether they have won Majors or not, the competition coming through is only going to get fiercer.
From what happened in 2017, if there is one guy to look out for, it’s Justin Thomas – major winner, player of the year, and FedEx Cup Champion.
Credit to @nolayingup for the title.