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Players 2024: Justin Thomas gave an interesting answer on whether or not this is the 'best field in golf'

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Kevin C. Cox

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — When Justin Thomas won the 2021 Players Championship, the top 20 of the leader board was littered with name brands like Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm and Cameron Smith. That trio, plus a number of other current LIV players who contended like Paul Casey and Talor Gooch, will not be at TPC Sawgrass this week, calling into question one of this event's main selling points - "The strongest field in golf."

Also absent are Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, with seven majors between them, as well as Joaquin Niemann, arguably one of the hottest golfers on the planet. With that in mind, it seems downright foolish to refer to the PGA Tour's flagship event as having golf's strongest field. 

Thomas didn't entirely disagree, saying it's "just the reality" of where the sport is right now. It's fractured nature has half of the game's biggest stars in Ponte Vedra Beach this week, while the other half will be home on the couch, their next event taking place at Trump National Doral the week before the Masters next month. 

"I mean, it's still been the best field in golf for many previous years," Thomas said Wednesday. "Yeah, you could always make an argument that there's other tournaments that are or are not. The PGA Championship has been the deepest field in terms of the most top 100 players, and I'm not just saying that for selfish reasons, it's just the truth."

At this point, only the PGA Championship, and the three other events like it, can lay claim to the strongest field in golf moniker. Still, though, Thomas gave a rather emphatic answer over whether or not winning this week's Players Championship will come with an asterisk next to it. 

"I know what you mean in terms of how World Ranking and guys that are or aren't on the tour anymore," he said. "But that's just kind of the reality that -- and what they have put themselves in. I mean, I'm not going to have an asterisk next to my name for winning this because the field wasn't too good, right."

In fairness, this week's field of 144 players is still stronger than most, and the $25 million purse will provide plenty of pressure regardless of who is here and who isn't. The size of the winner's check is irrelevant in Thomas' eyes, though. 

"I just want to play great golf and win golf tournaments, whether I'm playing for one dollar or 10 million or a billion dollars. Like I still want to win that trophy that they're giving out on Sunday at the end of the week, and my best opportunity of doing that is probably to focus more on golf than the alternative stuff."