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Justin Thomas’ swing, coaching tweaks lead to second-round 67 at Fortinet

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Justin Thomas’ swing, coaching tweaks lead to second-round 67 at Fortinet

    Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic

    NAPA, Calif. – Justin Thomas has spent the last two months trying to take ownership of his golf game.

    In practice, it looks a lot like it did between his first and second rounds of the Fortinet Championship at Silverado Resort.

    Following an opening 69 in which he hit just three fairways, Thomas went straight to the range Thursday evening. He pulled up a video of his swing from the round and quickly diagnosed the issue.

    “I could tell in one video I was getting stuck underneath it,” he said.

    Thomas spent 10 minutes correcting the problem and took some swings with a driver 3/4” longer than his gamer, which he has been experimenting with for several weeks. Then, he left.

    Justin Thomas adds longer driver to bag at Fortinet

    With the swing fix and new driver in place, Thomas shot 67 on Friday to vault into contention at 8 under, four shots back of 36-hole leader leader Sahith Theegala. He improved from 61st to fifth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. His average driving distance increased by 12 yards.

    It was a simple yet noticeable difference in workflow that Thomas had moved away from over the past year. He became too reliant on his team. Instead of watching the swing video himself, he waited for his coach and father, Mike, who traveled to nearly every event, to tell him what was wrong. And while Thomas texted about the issue with his dad, who isn’t on-site this week, it was Justin who found the fix.

    “That's a part of what I think has made me as successful as I've been in my career thus far,” Thomas said, “is I've been very good at adjusting on the fly.”

    Since narrowly missing the FedExCup Playoffs last month, Thomas parted ways with putting coach John Graham and scaled back how often he consults his father about his swing. Thomas spoke glowingly of his relationship with both men but noted he needed to take accountability: more mental participation in his own process.

    It has kept him more engaged this week. He didn’t hit it particularly well on Thursday, but he kept tinkering with his swing mid-round until he found something that could get him into the clubhouse. It was a round that could have easily finished 1 or 2 over a few months back, he said. Instead, he shot 3 under.

    That allowed Friday to be a day to chase contention, not hover around the cut. Thomas made six birdies to one bogey despite holing just one putt outside 10 feet. He hit 17 greens and gained over two strokes with his approach play.

    Thomas, who started on the back nine, closed with three birdies on his final five holes, making a 15-footer on No. 8 and a 10-footer on No. 9.

    “That's why I stay patient, just kind of stay in it and was able to have a nice -- birdied those last two to salvage a good round,” he explained.

    It’s a mindset that began to take shape at the Wyndham Championship. Thomas had spent most of the summer playing catch up, hoping one or two results would get him to the top 70 of the FedExCup and in the good graces of the U.S. Ryder Cup decision-makers, whom he would rely on for a captain’s pick. As mediocre results mounted, so did the pressure. He wasn’t playing well and he wasn’t sleeping. It hit a breaking point after he shot 82 in the first round of The Open Championship and missed the cut.

    “I had accepted the fact whatever was going to happen was going to happen, and I was OK with that,” he said.

    He missed the cut the following week at the 3M Open but liked the way his mindset was trending. Then, he finished T12 at the Wyndham Championship. It didn’t get him into the Playoffs, but it was enough to get a Ryder Cup pick.

    'It was a lot of emotions' Justin Thomas on being selected to play in Ryder Cup

    And after five weeks off, he arrived in Napa with a renewed sense of responsibility, even more bullish on his game.

    Through two rounds, you can see why.

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