Welcome to the Stats Insider, where we’ll look at Justin Thomas’ victory at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES. It was his 11th career victory, and second in his last four starts. He appears to be back on track after the wrist injury that interrupted last season. Thomas is just 26, but let’s appreciate the fact that we’re watching a player who seems destined to be in the World Golf Hall of Fame one day.
1. GOOD COMPANY: In the last 60 years, only two players have collected more victories before their 27th birthday: Tiger Woods (34) and Jack Nicklaus (20). Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth also earned 11 wins before turning 27. Thomas turns 27 on April 29, while Spieth will celebrate that birthday on July 27.
2. WINNER, WINNER: Thomas turned pro after the 2013 Walker Cup, then earned his TOUR card after one season on the Korn Ferry Tour. His 11 wins since joining the TOUR for the 2014-15 season are the second-most in span. Only Dustin Johnson (12) has more wins.
|MOST WINS SINCE 2014-15|
Ten of Thomas’ wins have come since the start of the 2016-17 season. That’s two more than anyone else. Only three other players have won more than four times in that span: Dustin Johnson (8), Brooks Koepka (6) and Bryson DeChambeau (5).
Thomas has now won four of nine TOUR starts in Asia, winning two times apiece at the CIMB Classic and THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES.
3. CLOSER: Thomas and Danny Lee shared the lead after a three-shot swing on the final hole of the third round. Thomas pulled away with a final-round 67, though, to win by two shots. Thomas has held at least a share of the 54-hole lead on 11 occasions. He’s converted eight into victories.
He has a knack for pulling away in the final round. Eight of his 11 wins have been by multiple strokes. Six have been by three or more strokes.
4. IRONS ON FIRE: Thomas’ strong iron play was on display again at Nine Bridges. He was 13 under on the par-4s. That was five strokes better than anyone else in the field. He hit 61 greens, which was third-best in the field. Thomas missed just six greens in the final three rounds.
“You have to be in control of your irons and your golf ball and making sure your distances are correct because these greens are very difficult,” Thomas said after his win. “Making sure you're on the right tiers and right spots is very, very important.”
That explains his success at Nine Bridges. Thomas is one of the best iron players on TOUR. He was second to Henrik Stenson in Strokes Gained: Approach last season. It was the third consecutive season Thomas ranked sixth or better in that statistic. He has the seventh-best Strokes Gained: Approach average since ShotLink started (minimum 300 rounds).
|BEST CAREER SG: APPROACH PER ROUND|
5. SPIETH’S START: THE CJ CUP was Spieth’s first start since the BMW Championship. He finished T8. Spieth, who finished second in Strokes Gained: Putting last season, continues to lean heavily on his putter while he’s sorting out his full swing.
He finished last driving accuracy at THE CJ Cup while ranking first in putts per greens in regulation (1.61). He hit 11 fairways in the first round but then less than half in the final three rounds (20 of 42). Nine Bridges had the fifth-easiest fairways to hit last season.
Last season, Spieth needed 14 starts to record his first top-10. He’s undoubtedly s moving in the right direction – he has three top-15s in his last five starts – but he said Sunday his ball-striking is still “a work in progress.”