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PGA Championship 2022: It sounds like Justin Thomas' biggest obstacle this week has been his allergies

May 19, 2022
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Ezra Shaw

TULSA — Justin Thomas has always liked tough conditions, and he got them. on Thursday at Southern Hill, teeing off in an afternoon wave of players that fared more than a stroke worse than their morning counterparts.

If the windy conditions weren't enough to satisfy his need for a stern challenge, then Thomas had a further assist from his own physical state. At the press conference following his three-under-par 67 that put him two off the lead of Rory McIlroy, Thomas looked and sounded like a man who was fighting off more than a few rogue Oklahoma gusts.

"Do I sound pretty good?" he joked, as he sniffled his way through the interview. "I definitely don't feel my best, but I feel better than I sound. I felt terrible Tuesday, felt a little better yesterday and then feel a little better today. I guess the allergies here are just crushing me."

In a paradoxical way, feeling congested and facing the wrong end of a bad draw may have benefited Thomas, who needed every ounce of concentration to shoot the best score of the afternoon wave.

"I think it's because I focus a lot more on what I'm trying to do in terms of the shot I'm trying to hit, the trajectory, the distance, and think less about the golf swing,” he said.

Thinking about the golf swing was a big problem for Thomas earlier this week. He was perturbed at how poorly he was striking it, and he was particularly frustrated with his swing coach ... who also happens to be his father, Mike Thomas.

"I think I really wasn't pleased with how my range sessions have gone this week and just how I've felt over the ball," he said, "and I got a little frustrated yesterday with my dad."

In the end, it was his dad who had the solution. He told his son to stop thinking about mechanics, and they set up a series of flags with the intention of going back to basics: Hit a fade, hit a draw, don't worry about club positions. Almost instantly, Thomas started flushing his shots, and he brought that mindset with him to Thursday's round.

"That's the big thing," he said. "When you get out there, it's game time."

When asked about his relationship with his father, he admitted that he gets "pissed" sometimes, and it's partly because Mike Thomas' tendency is to be soft on his son, to build up his ego rather than breaking him down.

"I have to remind him sometimes, you're not my dad out here, you're my swing coach, and I need you to tell me if something is wrong," Thomas said. "I don't need my ego boosted. I'm here to try to win a golf tournament and play well, so do your job."

The elder Thomas may not have used the harshest possible criticism, but by encouraging his son to revert to the feelings he knows cold—that he's known cold for years—he seems to have done his job pretty well.

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