Thomas closes out win at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES for 11th PGA TOUR titleFormer FedExCup champion Justin Thomas has two wins in three trips to Jeju Island
October 20, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Justin Thomas wins for second time at THE CJ CUP
For just over three seasons no one has won more on the PGA TOUR than Justin Thomas.
Just let that sink in.
Not the seemingly unstoppable Brooks Koepka. Not the win every season Dustin Johnson. Not FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy. No one. And it’s not really even close.
Since the beginning of the 2016-17 season, Thomas has 10 wins after grabbing his 11th career title at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES on Sunday. In that span Johnson is next with eight, Koepka six. It’s no contest.
It was the second win on JeJu Island in three years for Thomas as he held off a plucky crowd favorite in Danny Lee by two shots.
The 26-year-old former FedExCup winner has now converted eight of 11 54-hole lead/co leads into victory. He finds a way. And while those watching him are very impressed with such resolve Thomas isn’t ready to adopt the closer title just yet.
“I don't think you can ever necessarily call yourself the best closer. I've only won 11 times. I feel like once I get to 40 or 50 times and I've closed a lot of those, then I think that's kind of different,” Thomas says.
Yes, this Kentucky product already has 40 or 50 wins on his mind. And why not, he’s well and truly on his way.
But truly, he’s modest. Because on Sunday, Lee was playing spoiler for sure. Like a pesky terrier the Korean born contender was making the clutch putts when it mattered. He wasn’t backing down and was riding a wave of emotion.
In the face of this it could have been easy for Thomas to press. To try to knock him out of his misery by going for a big play. But that would have been risk. And maturity took over.
Thomas held his nerve and eventually it was Lee who blinked with some late bogeys.
“The biggest thing I think that I've gotten a lot better at is just learning, taking experiences and learning from them,” Thomas explained.
“That's what I did early in my career. There were a couple times I felt like I should have won the tournament but I did something incorrectly or hit a wrong club or thought how I shouldn't have.
“There's going to be things today that once I sit down and digest it and pay attention to kind of what happened out there, I'll be able to learn from it. That's all I'm trying to do because I feel like if I can just improve a little bit every year, then there's not really a ceiling that I feel like I can't reach, I just want to try to win as many tournaments as I can.”
It wasn’t that long-ago Thomas had temporarily lost his mojo thanks to a wrist injury and extended break. He missed a big chunk of last season after he hit a tree on a follow through at The Honda Classic and certainly had some rust coming out of it.
Some were even ready to write him off. His best had come. His fast pace couldn’t continue… surely.
That was until he took out the BMW Championship in the FedExCup Playoffs in August and showed his time is far from over. Now he’s won again and is already third in the new FedExCup chase.
“It feels great … It's very reassuring knowing that I could hit those shots when I needed to the entire day when I felt like the heat was on the whole day,” Thomas added.
“I feel like I'm starting to understand a lot better what I need to do, what my body needs to do on prior weeks before events and I feel like I'm doing a good job. In terms of the season, I definitely got off to a good start, there's no doubt about that.”
If this is what Thomas has been able to do without full understanding of himself … then there really might be no ceiling he can’t reach once he does.
Either way it will be fun watching him prove it.
Justin Thomas' news conference after winning THE CJ CUP