SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – A calling card of great players is the ability to contend without their best stuff. Such was the case for Justin Thomas this week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where a performance that didn’t meet his standards still yielded a six-figure payday.
Thomas was eight shots off the lead and seemingly out of the mix when he began his final round at TPC Scottsdale, but a strong start combined with some early wobbles from the leaders briefly vaulted him into contention for his third win of the young season. He ultimately signed for a 6-under 65 and finished in a tie for third at 14 under, three shots out of a playoff between Webb Simpson and Tony Finau.
Thomas can sometimes be his own harshest critic, and even a top-5 result wasn’t enough to masquerade issues he saw in his own game.
“To be perfectly honest, I don’t feel like I played very well this week,” Thomas said. “I got it around really well and I managed my game tremendously. And sometimes weeks like this can give me more confidence than winning, as crazy as it is.”
Thomas has now finished T-5 or better five times in nine starts dating back to his win at the BMW Championship in August. He admitted that his focus shifted from simply shooting a low score to actually contending for a win on the 14th hole, when he realized the leaders had stalled at 15 under and he was already at 11 under with a few birdie holes still remaining.
“I was like, if I can make this (birdie putt) and eagle either 15 or 17 and birdie 16 and 18, we can post 16 or 17 (under) and they’ve got to at least look at it. That’s all I wanted,” he said. “But overall, I can’t be too disappointed with the last six holes.”
Thomas has now finished T-3 at this event each of the last two years, and while he’s seemingly in line to one day lift the trophy, he is for the moment content with making a final-round move up the leaderboard with his B game.
“I mean, obviously I would have rather won,” Thomas said. “But to not have my best stuff, really drive it very, very average, iron game not very sharp, and not really have a hot putter once this week and still to hopefully be able to squeak a top-5 (finish) is pretty good.”