124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

to call or not to call

Justin Thomas uses perfect ‘ex-girlfriend’ analogy when explaining what it was like wondering whether to contact Zach Johnson

September 13, 2023

Orlando Ramirez

Justin Thomas’ journey over the last several months has been well documented. The 15-time PGA Tour winner hasn’t collected a victory since the PGA Championship in 2022, and with only three top-10 finishes this year, he found himself needing to rally late to try to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs and get the attention of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson.

Thomas missed three of his last five cuts of the season. Although a 12th-place tie at the season-ending Wyndham Championship moved him up in FedEx Cup points, he finished in 71st place, one spot out of advancing to the first playoff event in Memphis.

So, while his contemporaries were battling for the FedEx Cup $18 million top prize, Thomas was sitting at home in south Florida, left only to hope for the best. Ultimately, everything worked out for Thomas, as his career 6-2-1 record in the Ryder Cup was too good for Johnson to pass up. He selected Thomas as one of his six captain’s picks for the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 matches at Marco Simone outside Rome.

Speaking Wednesday from the Fortinet Championship at Silverado in Napa, Calif., Thomas took some time to explain more about what it was like waiting around, hoping to get picked for the Ryder Cup.

“It was brutal,” he said. “I told Zach after the fact that I compared it to like if you had an ex-girlfriend that you were trying to … you were trying to find any excuse you could to reach out to them to get in contact. That’s pretty much how I felt like with Zach.

“I understood it wasn’t going to be something where I text him and he’s like, ‘hey, just to let you know, we’re at like a 60 percent.’ No, that’s not what I was looking for in any way, shape or form. It’s very tough when you can’t do anything about it.

“It was like when Zach called, it was a lot of emotions, but like a relief was almost the first thing, and excitement. It was a lot. I had a lot of sleepless nights and then at one point it just kind of finally hit me, I had accepted the fact whatever was going to happen was going to happen, and I was OK with that. And I was always going to be supportive regardless of what happened. I'm just very excited, fortunate, happy that it ended the way that it did.”

The Wyndham Championship ended on Aug. 6, so Thomas has had five weeks to rest and practice for the next few weeks. During the downtime he’s been seen working on his swing with the help of pool noodles, and reports came last week that he and his father/swing coach Mike were no long working together, something Mike and Justin both refute. That said, on Wednesday Justin did say he is trying to figure out his swing more on his own so his father can travel less.

Thomas, now ranked 24th in the Official World Golf Ranking, is excited to compete again and has not played in the Fortinet Championship before because it hasn’t fit into his schedule in the past. Circumstances, obviously, are much different this year for numerous reasons.

“I just didn’t want to take that long off of competitive golf,” Thomas said. “Hand an opportunity to come to a place that I really likes, and it worked out even better after getting picked for the Ryder Cup to get a little—you know, get some competition under my belt before going there.”