SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – By the time Justin Thomas exited the memorable closing stretch at TPC Scottsdale, his once-promising score to par had been abruptly cut in half.
Thomas seemed on cruise control for much of the afternoon at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, playing his first 15 holes in 6 under to move within a shot of leader Bill Haas. But Thomas hit one of the worst shots of the day on No. 16 with the fans in a late-afternoon frenzy, bouncing his wedge into a greenside bunker.
He bladed his subsequent sand shot over the green, throwing his club toward his bag in frustration to the delight of the thousands gathered in the stands. After missing a 5-foot putt, he settled for double bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.
“It’s frustrating because it’s a wedge. I mean that’s a club I’m trying to make a birdie with, and it wasn’t as short as I thought it was off the tee,” Thomas said. “I thought it was at least going to cover the front, and there was just no sand in the bunker. When you’re short-sided, elevated green, it really sucks, to be honest, because there’s nothing you can do.”
Thomas’ round went from bad to worse on the drivable 17th, where his tee shot ended up within a few yards of the green. But he took a bold line with his pitch shot, only to watch it bounce over the green and into the water en route to a bogey.
“I wish I had it over. I just would have played it differently,” Thomas said of his pitch. “I thought it wouldn’t take as big of a hop and I flew it past where I wanted to, so pretty much didn’t do anything correctly on that shot.”
It all added up to a 3-under 68, but not before Thomas’ nerves were again frayed by a fan speaking up in playing partner Jordan Spieth’s backswing on No. 18. The group identified the fan and had security remove them. After a closing par, Thomas heads into the second round facing a four-shot deficit.
“Sixteen and 17 are two birdie holes and to play those 3 over today is definitely disappointing,” Thomas said. “But the fact that I did that and I’m still more than right there in a great position is definitely a positive note that I can leave today with.”