PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Despite the disjointed nature of the weather-plagued Genesis Open, where the third and fourth rounds were completed on Sunday at Riviera Country Club, Justin Thomas looked to be in control of the tournament—at least through the first 55 holes.
Then came a missed 11-footer for par on the second hole of his final round, and another from just inside eight feet on the fourth, and another empty 11-footer on the fifth.
By the time Thomas made his fourth bogey of the day, on the drivable par-4 10th, where he yanked his tee shot well left of the green before a three-putt that included missing a five-footer, his four-stroke lead at the start of the round had vanished. J.B. Holmes would take the lead and eventually the title, surprisingly beating Thomas by one stroke.
“I really struggled putting in that wind out there,” said Thomas upon finishing with a four-over 75 after posting rounds of 66-65-65 to tie the tournament’s 54-hole scoring record. “It’s something that I’ve needed to get better at, and it unfortunately just kind of showed a flaw in my game.”
Despite all of that, Thomas had multiple chances for his 10th career victory and first since the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last August. After a two-shot swing to give up the lead to J.B. Holmes, Thomas grabbed it right back with a birdie on the par-5 11th while Holmes made bogey.
He wouldn’t hang on to the lead long.
Two holes later, Thomas three-putted again, this time missing a par putt from eight feet and then his bogey try from inside three feet. Oof. He followed the double bogey with another bogey at 14, where this time he missed from five feet.
And still he had a chance to tie the lead with two holes to play. Trailing Holmes by two, Thomas stuck his approach on the par-3 16th to seven feet and made the putt to cut the deficit to one. But on the par-5 17th he failed to convert again, missing an eight-footer for birdie that burned the edge before tapping in for par.
Needing to birdie the last to force a playoff, Thomas’ 23-footer from behind the pin on 18 slid by on the low side and that was that.
“J.B. won. He played great,” Thomas said. “But it’s always a bummer to hand him a tournament. I feel like I should have won that thing.”
To Thomas’ point: He took 34 putts in the final round and was -2.954 in strokes gained/putting after three straight rounds of terrific putting. Over his final 18 holes, Thomas made just one putt outside 10 feet.
The one he missed that stuck out the most?
“The third putt on 13. It’s just I’ve got to stop doing that,” he said. “I could feel the wind coming, and I got scared so I tried to hit it harder, and I did hit it harder and that’s why I missed it, I jammed it. That’s not the speed that I hit putts at when I’m putting well. And every time I miss a short putt, it’s from that similar kind of scenario where I feel something when I’m over it and I either don’t back off or I try to adjust over it. It ended up costing me the golf tournament.”