Augusta (United States) (AFP) – Justin Thomas chases the world number one ranking and his second consecutive major title this week at the Masters, taking a huge confidence boost from winning the 2017 PGA Championship.
The 24-year-old American tees off Thursday at Augusta National after PGA Tour wins this season in South Korea and at the Honda Classic plus a WGC Mexico playoff loss to Phil Mickelson and a WGC Match Play fourth-place finish.
“I feel like my game is a lot better,” Thomas said. “If you know how to get around here, you don’t need your A-game to contend… you need to see where your game is at and adjust accordingly.”
His game has been sizzling since won a final-round shootout last August in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, barely a two-hour drive away in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“It’s big first and foremost from a confidence standpoint, not to get questions like when are you going to win a major or do you feel like you’re one of the best players without a major,” Thomas said.
“When I have a chance to win I’m able to look back at the PGA Championship and just remember the things I went through and emotions I had and just try to learn from that and use it to my advantage.”
This week, Thomas will draw upon the memories to try and become only the fourth golfer to win the PGA and the next year’s Masters back-to-back, joining legends Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead.
If he does, second-ranked Thomas will also overtake compatriot Dustin Johnson for the world number one spot.
“I’s very important to me. It’s a huge goal of mine,” Thomas said. “But at the end of the day, if I just continue to play well and be in contention and win tournaments, it’s something I feel like that’s going to take care of itself.”
Thomas missed a chance take the top spot two weeks ago when he lost a WGC Match-Play semi-final to Bubba Watson.
“I was a little upset with myself that I got kind of wrapped up, because I was playing my match to become number one in the world instead of playing my match to have a chance to win the tournament,” Thomas said.
“And that’s very immature of me. That’s very not mentally strong. It’s just unlike me. So that was frustrating.
“But it is a huge deal and when and if it’s meant to be, and however long, that it will happen. I just need to go out and try to play well this week.”
Spain’s third-ranked Jon Rahm and fourth-rated American Jordan Spieth can also overtake Johnson this week but need Thomas to struggle even if they win to reach the summit.
– Jacket hunting with Tiger –
Thomas could finish as low as fifth and still move to number one with help. To have a chance, he stressed mental toughness.
“You need to be mentally sharp. You need to not make any stupid mistakes,” Thomas said. “Just try not to win so much. I wanted it too much for a while. I was pressing too much to make things happen in the final round.”
And Thomas could challenge his boyhood idol — 14-time major champion Tiger Woods.
“Tiger has always been my favorite growing up,” Thomas said. “I cherish the opportunity to potentially be going down the stretch with him to win.
“All I’ve done is watch it and enjoyed it. Maybe I wouldn’t enjoy it so much if I was on the other end, but I guess we’ll never know — or maybe I will.”