CRAWFORD | Breakthrough! Goshen's Justin Thomas wins PGA Championship
Justin Thomas emerged from a five-way tie for first to win his first major championship, taking the PGA Championship by two strokes at Quail Hollow Golf Course in Charlotte, N.C. Sunday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – As I watched those final moments before Louisville native Justin Thomas won the PGA Championship on Sunday, signing his scorecard, waiting for the final pairing to finish on the 18th hole, I couldn’t help but think back to that evening just down the road from Charlotte, site of his victory Sunday, to the Wyndham Championship eight years ago in Greensboro, N.C.
That’s where I waited for him outside the clubhouse, when he’d had a disappointing round after becoming the third-youngest player ever to make the cut in a PGA event. He was 16 years old.
Back then, everyone said it was a matter of time until Thomas became a major champion.
That time came on Sunday. It probably took longer than the St. Xavier graduate wished it would have. But that made it no less sweet, with his parents watching, he hoisted the Wannamaker Trophy, kissed it, told a national television audience that he had no words, that he wished his grandfather – who, along with Thomas’ father (Mike, the pro at Harmony Landing) was a PGA pro -- had been around to see it.
It’s hard enough to win a PGA Championship. It’s even harder when everyone keeps telling you that they know you’re going to win someday, when everyone expects you to win big, no less.
Justin Thomas will never have to hear that again. Now, he just can take aim at winning more. Thomas, who resides in Goshen, Ky., is the first Louisville native to win a major since Bobby Nichols, also a St. X grad, won the PGA Championship in 1964. He's the first from this area to win a major since Fuzzy Zoeller won the U.S. Open in 1984.
As Thomas played his final hole on Sunday, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler came out to the No. 18 green to watch him finish up, and that meant a great deal to him, and it’s one of the great things about this group of young players the game is enjoying right now. They are true sportsmen.
A little while back, after Thomas had won back-to-back tour events early this season, Spieth said it was only matter of time until Thomas started to win the big ones. He knew what he was talking about.
"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.”
On Sunday, his birdie on the par-5 10th hole to open the back nine signaled that the day was going his way. His tee shot banked off a tree and back into the fairway. He missed the green on his approach, but chipped to within 10 feet to set up a birdie putt. That shot reached the lip of the cup, and sat there for 12 seconds before dropping through for birdie.
Sometimes you have to be patient. Thomas has learned about that. He has watched his friends win the big ones. He wound up winning by two strokes, with a final round of 3-under 68 at Quail Hollow Golf Club.
Yesterday, they watched him.
"So awesome, dude," Spieth told him afterward.
And with his first major now tucked away at age 24, they might be watching him a lot more. Thomas is something to watch. How a guy who is listed at 5-10 and just 145 pounds can crush a ball 340 yards is a wonder of physics.
He entered the week ranked 14th in the world. He’ll leave with a Top 10 ranking and a new label – latest breakthrough golfer in the sport’s stable of young superstars.
And maybe those floodgates are starting to crack.
Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.