KAPALUA, Hawaii — Justin Thomas is a hard man to please. Mostly, he’s hard on himself. As a new year dawns, you have to think this attitude will make him a hard player to beat.
It’s not that Thomas, 26, seeks perfection. He’s smart enough to know that’s a fool’s errand in the unpredictable milieu that is tournament golf. But despite 11 PGA Tour victories, including a PGA Championship, a month atop the World Golf Ranking, a FedEx Cup title and PGA Tour Player of the Year distinction in 2017, plus laying down several scoring markers (including a 59 at the Sony Open), Thomas is far from satisfied.
“I'm disappointed I haven't achieved more, to be honest,” Thomas said Tuesday at Kapalua Resort, where he is one of 34 players competing in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the site of one of 11 tour titles. “I shouldn't say disappointed, but I mean, I'm obviously … I'm pleased with my career thus far, but I feel like I could have and should have won a lot more tournaments and definitely should have contended and won some more majors. So that's just my opinion.”
Well, seeing how his is the only opinion that matters, it’s a valid take.
Pressed exactly on what more he could have done thus far, he zeroed in on a major record that includes last year’s disappointing results, albeit slightly understandable given the two months he was forced to the sidelines with a wrist injury. He finished T-24 at the Masters while he nursed the injury, missed the PGA, missed the cut at the U.S. Open, despite, he said, hitting the ball as well as he had all year, and then finished T-11 at the Open Championship.
“Yeah, I just think I should have won more majors, had more chances,” he said.
Just to prove he doesn’t get too hung up on them, though, Thomas couldn’t name any of the major venues for 2020, beyond the Masters, when asked how they set up for him. He hasn’t been to Harding Park (PGA), Winged Foot (U.S. Open) or Royal St. George’s. That indicates a healthy perspective, not someone too absorbed by the four biggest events.
Each year Thomas creates a new list of goals, both on and off the course, that he carries on his phone. He never divulges them.
“The goals usually aren't too difficult,” said Thomas, who won on the Plantation Course in 2017 as part of sweeping the Hawaii swing. “You could get four or five people together in here and you guys could probably come up with a decent amount of them. It's not anything crazy as you see every year. But to me it's just stuff that I think is going to result in a great year.”
His 2018-’19 season wasn’t anything special until he torched the No. 3 Course at Medinah Country Club to win the BMW Championship, his first victory for more than a year. Then he began the new season with a win at the CJ Cup. Playing alongside captain Tiger Woods in the Presidents Cup was certainly a huge highlight, punctuated by sinking the winning putt in a Day 2 foursomes match and bellowing at Woods, “I love me some me,” to mimic Terrell Owens. It was probably the signature moment of Team USA's comeback victory at Royal Melbourne.
So maybe in 2020 Thomas will love himself a bit more in the majors and get back to No. 1 in the world, something that very much is on his mind. He talked as if this is one goal on the front burner. He enters this week at No. 4. Only Jon Rahm at No. 3 is ranked higher in the field.
But don’t get the impression Thomas is a one-dimensional dude. We leave you with this thought that he shared on Tuesday.
“Last year I had stuff that was off that wasn't golf-related, whether it was last year a big goal of mine was to start a foundation, and we had a very successful first foundation event,” he said. “Although last year might not have been the golf year I wanted, it was pretty awesome starting a foundation and having such a successful first event. It kind of puts things in perspective sometimes.”