AUGUSTA, Ga. – Justin Thomas has already collected a major championship, but he knows that he’s otherwise underperformed in the big events. Here at the Masters, the major he wants to win as much as any, the results just haven’t been what he’s expected.
In three attempts at Augusta National, Thomas’ best finish was a tie for 17th last year. But that was with a final-round 73, when others near the top of the leaderboard were making birdies in droves.
“I’ve had a hard time at this event every year because I love this golf course so much and I feel like it fits my game so well,” Thomas said Tuesday at the Masters. “I really feel like I should have a great chance to win and I think that gets in my own way sometimes, or at least it has the past couple years.”
Rather than preparing the same way as the past three years, Thomas took a different approach this time around. No more grinding back home on the practice range. No more six-hour days burning in the hot sun. Instead of working hard on his game and trying to maintain that form all the way through the end of the Masters, Thomas decided to get away and chill.
“I just went on a little vacation with my parents down in the Bahamas to get my mind in a good place, and my dad and I would just go play golf like we did when I was eight, nine years old,” Thomas said. “Just having fun, going fishing, hang by the pool, do whatever just to try to get relaxed.”
Thomas, ranked No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking, won the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow; but in 13 majors as a professional, he has only three top-10 finishes to go along with missed two cuts. His three finishes at the Masters are T-39, T-22 and T-17.
Thomas and his father, Mike, have dissected his major performances and narrowed in on the Masters, in particular. The two feel like Thomas has played too conservatively at Augusta National. When Thomas has, say, an 8-iron in his hand, he’s trying to figure out where he can miss instead of trying to knock the ball stiff, just as he does at every other tournament during the year.
“You obviously have to pick your spots and understand when it’s smart and when you have to play conservative, or when you can play aggressive vs. conservative,” Thomas said. “But as a whole, I think that we’ve figured out that I may be over-respecting the golf course, at least with the last couple of years.”