CHARLOTTE: Watching his friend Jordan Spieth win major titles was beyond frustrating for Justin Thomas, who captured one of his own Sunday (Monday in Manila) by winning the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.
“Frustration probably isn’t the right word. Jealousy definitely is,” Thomas said. “There’s no reason to hide it. I wanted to be doing that and I wasn’t. There’s only four of them in a year, and to be one of them, a major champion, is really cool.”
World No.2 Spieth won last month’s British Open to go with his 2015 Masters and US Open titles, and would have completed a career Grand Slam by taking the Wanamaker Trophy that Thomas hoisted.
“Hopefully I’m going to win some more, plenty more, a lot more,” Thomas said. “I know you can’t get to two unless you get one. So I’m excited to have this and it’s incredible. It was an awesome day. It was a great experience. It’s huge for me.”
And from telling his girlfriend in advance to change her flight plans to sinking three emotional back-nine birdies, Thomas kept his cool while thinking all along it was his week to win.
“I truly felt like I was going to win,” Thomas said. “My girlfriend was supposed to fly out at about 7 and I was like, ‘You need to change your flight to later, because I just feel like I don’t want you to miss this. I feel like I’m going to get it done.’ I was just very confident.”
And he never felt overcome by the tension and pressure on a day when he was among five deadlocked for the lead at one stage.
“I just had an unbelievable calmness,” Thomas said. “I thought I would be very shaky. At one point, I looked at my hand and it was a little bit shaky. But that’s why you play. You play for those nerves.”
Thomas found his resolve after sinking a 14-foot putt to salvage bogey at the first hole.
“I pretty much couldn’t have drawn up a worse start,” Thomas said of his first four shots. “After rolling that in, it just kind of calmed me down and kept me going.”
At the par-5 10th, his tee shot bounced off a tree into the fairway. Then an eight-foot birdie putt hung on the edge of the cup nearly 10 seconds before falling in.
“I was like, ‘This ball has to go in. There’s no way that it can stay there,’” Thomas said. “I threw a little fit to try to see what would happen. The gravity took over and the roar was pretty loud, so that was pretty cool.”
Going ‘the most berserk’
Thomas seized command with a 40-foot chip-in at the par-3 13th and celebrated in style as the crowd went wild.
“That chip-in on 13 was probably the most berserk I’ve ever gone on the golf course. Yeah, it was nice,” Thomas said. “You can look really stupid in a heartbeat. To have that chip come out perfectly was (wonderful) and that was a roar like I’ve never experienced.”
He sparked another roar with a tee shot to 15 feet over water at the par-3 17th, then holed the putt, the ball dropping in from the left side to all-but seal his triumph.
“That was one of the best golf shots I’ve probably ever hit in my life,” he said. “When you get in those moments, that adrenaline, it’s so hard to take something off of a club. That shot, I’ll never forget that vision in my head when it landed.
“And when that putt went in, it was definitely a relief.”
Thomas is the third consecutive American in his 20s to win a major after Spieth and US Open champion Brooks Koepka, and the third first-time major winner in a row at the PGA after Australian Jason Day in 2015 and American Jimmy Walker last year.