CRAWFORD | Louisville's Justin Thomas is on a roll -- earns seco - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Louisville's Justin Thomas is on a roll -- earns second PGA Tour win of season in Maui

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Things could get a little rowdy in Waikiki tonight. Louisville native Justin Thomas, a former golf standout from the University of Alabama, says he’ll get together with tour buddies and ‘Bama alums Trey Mullinax and Bud Cauley, to watch the Crimson Tide face Clemson in the College Football Playoff championship game.

Life is good for the 23-year-old St. Xavier High School graduate. He has a six-hour Polo photo shoot Monday morning, and will watch the title game with his buddies that night. And on Sunday, he won for the second time in four PGA Tour events this year, capturing the SBS Tournament of Champions for a payday of $1.22 million.

It was a bit nerve-wracking. He saw a five-stroke lead shrink to one with just a 10-foot miss by HIdeki Matsuyama keeping it from disappearing completely over the span of three holes in Sunday’s final round on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, Hawaii. But Thomas showed that he has added some maturity to the talent that has often been evident during his years on tour.

Instead of getting flustered, Thomas calmed down, hit one of his best shots of the tournament in an approach on No. 17 to set himself up for birdie, then birdied No. 18 to close out his second PGA Tour win of the season, the third of his career and his first on American soil. He finished with a 22-under score of 270.

“I just felt great going into today, and just the week, just because I felt like I was playing well enough to where if I just manage my game well and I minimize my mistakes, then I should at least be around the hunt,” Thomas said.

Thomas nearly ran away from the field, but ran into trouble. He bogeyed the 10th hole and double-bogeyed on the par-5 No. 15, and acknowledged that in the past, he might’ve been done after that.

“I probably would still be out there crying or whining about it,” he told reporters after the round. “Obviously it would have been different if I was one -- if I had a one-shot lead and I did that to go 1-down. That changes things a lot. But I still would like to hope that I would have been that calm and that patient, just because I think what helped -- y'all probably won't believe me, but I didn't really feel like it was from nerves. I felt very comfortable.”

Walking up to No. 17, Thomas said he had a short conversation with veteran caddie Jimmy Johnson, who has been a big part of his emergence of late.

“I told Jimmy walking up to 17 tee, I was like, we would have taken this spot before the week started,” Thomas said. “I was still playing great. I was hitting a lot of good shots. It was just a lot slimmer lead than it could have been.”

For a lot of years, a lot of people have felt Thomas was on the verge of a breakout. He, perhaps, has felt it too, only to watch friends his own age make their moves. Now, as the only player to slow the roll of Matsuyama — who has been on a remarkable run the past three months, with four wins and two runner-ups (both to Thomas) in six tour events — Thomas has established himself among the major contenders for the upcoming campaign. He’s the first multiple-winner of the PGA Tour season that began last October, and the win moves him to No. 12 in the world and No. 2 in the PGA's FedEx Cup points standings.

The win got extra meaning because at the end of the stunning 18th hole were his parents, who saw him win in person for the first time after a pair of previous wins in Malaysia. His father, Harmony Landing pro Mike Thomas, is his coach.

“It was great having them here. I was joking, I apparently have to fly at least 12 hours to get a win on the PGA Tour,” Thomas said, and began laughing. “I'd like to fly, maybe keep it a little closer, but I guess I'm getting closer. I'm building on it. It was great having them here. I was surprised my mom held it together as well as she did. I said on 18 green, my mom is about to be a mess. It was good, I was glad to see that. I definitely made them stress a little bit more than probably they would have liked, but yeah, I love having them here.”

Jordan Spieth, who had the low round of the day at 65, is among those who have expected Thomas to break out at anytime.

"I think it's potentially floodgates opening," Spieth said. "The guy hits it forever. He's got a really, really nifty short game. He manages the course well. He's playing the golf course the way it should be played, and honestly, he's taking advantage of the easier holes. It's awesome to see.”

Thomas said he was happy to see one friend after another find success on the tour, but that he had his troubles with it, too.

“I think it drove me a lot,” he said. “It's weird, I mean, some of my good friends, I mean, I'm never -- trying to think how I'm going to word this (laughter). I wasn't mad, but it was maybe a little frustrating sometimes seeing some friends and peers my age do well. Not because I wasn't cheering for them because I feel like I was as good as them. It's just immature of me. I mean, the fact of the matter is, over the course of a long career, we're going to beat each other. That's just how it is. I think now, I feel so much more comfortable. I really do.”

Someone asked Thomas what his goals for the rest of the year are, and he wouldn’t say. He did say that he hoped he could ride this momentum into the Sony Open this week. Dating back to his junior tournament days, Thomas has collected balls from those tournament wins. He’s now up past 120, he estimated Sunday.

And he may be heating up to add more.

But first there’s the matter of that football game.

“This is actually comical,” he said. “I woke up this morning and the first thing that came to my mind was like, it's Sunday; the game's tomorrow. I swear. I was like, I was nervous. And then I was laying there a little bit longer and then today came to mind. I was like, man, we play the National Championship tomorrow. We've got to win this game.”

Maybe what happened in Maui on Sunday will be a good omen. At least, at long last, one old standout for the Tide is rolling.

Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved. Quotes provided by ASAP Sports.

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