TOP 30 PLAYERS TO WATCH
No. 1: Justin Thomas
It was a magical 2017, but now the question becomes: How does he back it up?
December 30, 2017
Inside the PGA TOUR
The FedExCup champion also earns Player of the Year honors
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
How much better can it get for Justin Thomas?
That’s the biggest question posed towards our current FedExCup Champion and gives us plenty of reason to watch him closer than ever.
His 2016-17 season was off the charts as Thomas won five times, including his maiden major championship and of course the season-long FedExCup. Oh, and he shot a 59 in Hawaii and a 63 at the U.S. Open.
Given the benchmark is so high, how will he guard against a letdown?
Already he has win No. 1 for the new season after a playoff victory over Marc Leishman at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in Korea.
So, it appears as if his star will continue to rise and perhaps shine even brighter.
But given he’s prone to wearing his emotions on his sleeve, will he cope well with added scrutiny and expectations?
Having struck up a friendship with Tiger Woods, who backed up multiple-win seasons over and over again, Thomas has at least one confidant he can garner advice from.
Another is good friend Jordan Spieth, who found himself unfairly wielding off criticism when he didn’t back up his first five-win season with similar results.
But at the end of the day Thomas is his own man. He grew up in golf, lives and breathes golf, bleeds golf -- he wants nothing more than to push himself as far as possible in the sport.
He strives to be the greatest and won’t give in until he gets there.
If he could improve anything it would be driving accuracy – he was T162 last season at 55 percent – but given he bombs it so far down there, he’s usually able to get at the greens anyway.
Thomas keeps his goals close to his chest but we are going to guess that winning another major, getting to world No. 1 and being the first player ever to defend the FedExCup title are on the list.
We’re not going to bet against him ticking all of those boxes off in 2018.
BY THE NUMBERS
How Justin Thomas ranked in Strokes Gained statistics during his last full season on the PGA TOUR.
Current 2017-18 position: 7th
Playoff appearances: 3
TOUR Championship appearances: 2
Best result: Reigning FedExCup Champion. He is the second-youngest FedExCup champion, trailing only Jordan Spieth.
INSIGHTS FROM THE INSIDERS
PGATOUR.COM’s Insiders offer their expert views on what to expect from Justin Thomas in 2018.
TOUR INSIDER by Cameron Morfit
There’s only one thing to do when you get on a roll like Thomas did last season: Keep it going as long as possible. So far, so good, with his victory at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES, the first-year tournament in South Korea. Thomas will have to manage his own expectations after running the table last season, perhaps redefining success. He’ll want to somehow dig deep and summon his absolute best if and when he goes eye-to-eye with his pal Jordan Spieth. And keep an eye on Thomas’ Strokes Gained: Putting numbers. He was in negative numbers and 131st on TOUR in 2016, but last season he jumped up to +.289, 47th best on TOUR.
FANTASY INSIDER by Rob Bolton
Yes, he earned this spot after a five-win season that included his first major, but there's a dose of week-to-week inconsistency that all but makes him unownable in DFS where his price tag can also cost you depth. Perhaps he'll continue to explore the less-is-more formula and keep shaving starts as he's done since breaking onto the PGA TOUR with 30 in 2014-15, or perhaps he'll stick with something close to 25 because that total yielded the FedExCup last season. Either way, to earn this position in draft leagues, he'll need two or three more seasons of similar production to convince us about taking a pass on Jordan Spieth at No. 1.
EQUIPMENT INSIDER by Jonathan Wall
Thomas switched from Titleist's 917D3 driver to 917D2 to pick up extra forgiveness and distance. Plays a custom set of 718 MB irons with no offset. A traditional blade putter user for most of his life, Thomas switched to a Scotty Cameron Futura X5 Flow Neck mallet during last year's FedExCup Playoffs. Has "Radar" stamped on his wedges due to his ability to get the ball near the target with regularity.
STYLE INSIDER by Greg Monteforte
JT has established himself as one of the best-dressed players on TOUR. His fun prints, vibrant pops of colors, and old school brogues turn heads for all the right reasons. He also accessorizes his looks exceptionally well with exotic skin belts and old brogue-style shoes in custom colorways that perfectly sync up with his outfits. Don’t change a thing in 2018, Justin.