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The need for speed: Justin Thomas working to increase speed, distance

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This won’t surprise you, but Justin Thomas can’t follow Bryson DeChambeau’s training regimen and pack on 40 pounds.

“I don’t have the height to do that,” joked Thomas, who is listed in the PGA Tour media guide at 5 feet, 10 inches and 160 pounds. “I’m going to look like a beach ball if I put on 40 pounds.”

But that doesn’t mean Thomas isn’t looking for other ways to add speed and, thus, gain distance. Generally considered to be, pound for pound, one of the longest hitters on Tour, Thomas ranked 35th in driving distance last season, averaging 304.2 yards off the tee. He knows he can access an extra gear that’ll give him another five to 10 yards, if he needs it, but he doesn’t have the firepower to rear back and send it 20 yards farther.

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Seeing what DeChambeau has done over the past year has led Thomas to, in his words, “mess around with some stuff,” in the search for more speed. Last season he ranked well above the Tour average in clubhead speed, at 116 mph.   

“There’s different ways to do it,” Thomas said Tuesday ahead of his title defense at the CJ Cup, which this year is being played at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. “The absolute No. 1 thing is I’m continuing to stay injury-free and I’m continuing to progress in a good direction of terms of staying healthy and staying fit. But if I can do that while incorporating some more speed, then that’s big.”

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Coming out of the 3 ½-month pandemic break earlier this year, Thomas said he was in the best shape in his life. He was working out five times a week, lifting “some pretty good weight,” receiving treatment and feeling strong. Then the weekly Tour grind caught up with him. While playing in 95-degree temperatures and walking seven miles a day, he struggled to maintain that workout routine. When he returned home from the Tour Championship, Thomas said he’d lost roughly 15 pounds over the past three months – down to 151, his lowest weight in years. “It was a tough scene,” he said.

“Once we start the tournament, if you don’t get the perfect tee times, I can’t do what I want to do working out-wise,” he said. “I’m trying to keep my energy level up and that’s what’s most important when I tee off on Thursday.”

So now he’s trying to ramp up his workload during off-weeks, getting his lower body stronger while also maintaining the flexibility and mobility in his hips.

“I’m not far off,” he said. “It’s really about messing with some different stuff and different training and explosiveness to be able to pick up something.”