Thomas to use his inner Koepka at U.S. Open
June 10, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Justin Thomas watched from his home as Brooks Koepka won the 2019 PGA Championship. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Former FedExCup champion Justin Thomas watched reigning PGA TOUR Player of the Year Brooks Koepka very carefully last month at the PGA Championship.
Not inside the ropes, but on the telecast.
Sidelined with a wrist injury at the time, Thomas admitted to being bored and annoyed to be missing the tournament he won in 2017.
But he used the moment to further his education in the school of golf. Thomas was especially attuned to seeing how Koepka dealt with his sizeable 54-hole lead at Bethpage Black. When Thomas led by seven shots at the 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii with a round to play he found it difficult to contain his nerves.
“I promise I'm not saying this to pat myself on the back, but I have started a Sunday with a 7-shot lead and it's still to this day the most nervous I've been teeing off,” Thomas admitted ahead of this week’s U.S. Open.
“It was tough at the Sony Open… so I can't imagine how it was at the PGA Championship, Bethpage Black, best field in golf, tough conditions…. I've learned a lot watching Brooks at the PGA.”
Thomas was impressed with the outward persona Koepka threw out to the world, even when he started to slide a little on the back nine and Dustin Johnson got within striking distance.
“Everybody knows he’s very cool, calm, collected. He’s got one of the best swaggers out here, especially when he’s playing well,” Thomas said of the man who has won four of the last eight majors he’s played in.
“Watching how he handled that and the adversity that was thrown at him and just the shots that he hit when he needed to… because I know that I can get a little bit up and down with my emotions … anytime you can learn in watching that, I just felt like he handled that really well.
“So maybe if I got in that scenario, then I could – I hate to say channel my inner BK to boost his ego – but definitely stress some of those characteristics … that would be good.”
Thomas returned to competition at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide only to miss the cut, but managed to clear some more rust from his game with a solid T20 finish at last week’s RBC Canadian Open.
He sits 13th in the FedExCup standings despite not winning this season (five top 10s) and having the five-week injury layoff. The key to turning near chances into a win is putting as Thomas ranks 121st in Strokes Gained: Putting.
"The year has been weird, it really has. Because I got off to a great start, consistency-wise,” Thomas explained.
“I had a couple of great chances to win. I felt like I really should have won L.A. I felt like I had a great chance to win Phoenix. It just was two putting rounds away from winning two golf tournaments. And I feel like that's just been the big difference this year, is my putter.
“I still feel good over it, which is what's frustrating sometimes, is that you can feel great over it, but the ball still won't go in the hole and you don't know why sometimes. So that's what we've been trying to figure out by just being patient with it and understand that those cold sprees happen for everybody. You just have to try to make that time frame as short as possible.”