Justin Thomas, now in the national spotlight, fires opening-roun - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Justin Thomas, now in the national spotlight, fires opening-round 69 in Arizona

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Steve Stricker Steve Stricker

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (WDRB) -- Justin Thomas teed off in the featured afternoon pairing Thursday in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

And in his first start since back-to-back wins last month, Thomas rallied late for a 2-under par 69 at TPC Scottsdale.

After a bogey on the 11th, Thomas birdied three of his final seven holes, including the signature par-3 16th, to end the day tied for 28th.

"It just really tested my patience," Thomas said. "I wasn't hitting it great to start, then I started hitting it good, and I just was getting some bad breaks ... I was just really proud of myself to stay upbeat and stay patient to get myself to shoot a round like I did today."

It was a solid opening round for the Goshen, Kentucky, native, something expected of a guy with three wins in his first five events this season. On Wednesday, Thomas talked about being closer to attaining one of his many goals, making his way into the biennial team event, the President's Cup.

"Last year, I had to have a great year to get on the Ryder Cup team," Thomas said. "And this year, I still have to have a good year, obviously, but I didn't have to have as great of a year (to make the President's Cup)."

And Thomas has the attention of this year's President's Cup captain, Steve Stricker.

"That guy has got a lot of offense," said Stricker, who shot a 4-under 67 on Thursday. "Great young player. He's showing his potential ... It's just fun to see, and I'm excited for him to be a part of this team. Hopefully he can keep up the great play and be a part of that team."

Thomas was paired with U of L alumnus Adam Hadwin and Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson on Thursday, the latter of which always makes for an exciting day.

"Playing with Phil anywhere is going to be big crowds, but here it's gonna be second to none," Thomas told WDRB Sports Director Tom Lane after the round. "I was really excited when I got the pairing because I knew what it'd be like out there today. It was a lot of fun. It was a new experience, but it sure was a lot of fun."

And after the round, Thomas had a simple message for his fans back in Louisville.

"Thanks for all the support."

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