A look back at Justin Thomas's all-time scoring record
January 10, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Justin Thomas shoots a career-defining "59" at Sony Open
HONOLULU, Hawaii – When Jordan Spieth made the turn on Sunday in last year’s Sony Open in Hawaii he wasn’t the least bit concerned with Justin Thomas.
Because as far as his friend was concerned – Thomas had already won.
“I felt like there was a second tournament for second place,” Spieth recalled this week.
Thomas was of course continuing his stunning pace after an opening 11-under 59 on Thursday at Waialae Country Club and was way out in front.
He wanted the trophy but he also had his sights set on another magic number on the PGA TOUR – 253.
Tommy Armour III’s 72-hole scoring record of 254 shots had held up since the 2003 Valero Texas Open – but Thomas wanted it for himself.
Here’s a look back at how Thomas took aim – and ultimately took down – the PGA TOUR scoring record.
ROUND ONE – SUBLIME SUB 60 TIME
Thomas was coming off an incredible win at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, staving off a late charge from Hideki Matsuyama to take his third PGA TOUR win.
But as good as the win was, we still weren’t expecting the blitzkrieg that was the opening round in Honolulu.
Paired with Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger in the opening round Thomas began his day on the 10th hole.
He was given an early indication of what might be on the cards when he chipped in for eagle from just off the green.
But then he was unable to get up and down from the sand on the 11th, recording his only bogey of the day.
Birdies on the 13th and 14th followed before he kicked things up a gear to record five straight birdies around the turn from the 16th through to the 2nd.
Another birdie on the 4th sent Thomas to 9-under and left him with the prospect of playing the last five holes in two under to make his mark in history.
Forget 59, he was thinking 58 or even 57 to match or beat Jim Furyk’s all-time round record.
“There are so many holes you can make birdies on. You can definitely make bogeys quickly if you’re not driving it straight or if you get out of position but the chances are there,” Thomas said this week.
“At 9-under through 13 I felt there were four or all five holes there where I could get some more birdies. I didn’t have 57 specifically in my mind but I was trying to make as many birdies as I could.”
It seemed a foregone conclusion at the time given how Thomas was flushing the ball but the golf gods refused to make it easy.
At the 5th Thomas missed a nine-foot birdie putt. At the 6th he could not convert from 15-feet.
When it came to the par-3 7th Thomas left himself plenty of meat on the bone at 29 feet, eight inches but hit a lovely putt down the slope, only to see it somehow trickle to the right at the very last moment to sit on the lip.
Spieth already had the putter raised before dropping to his knees in disbelief.
“His two best putts missed,” Spieth said referencing the 5th and 7th holes.
“I wish there was a camera with my view on the putt that he hit on No. 7. It was ridiculous. I've never seen a putt that I thought was so sure that it was going in with just drip speed, somehow missed the cup.”
A nice par save on the 8th after his drive found tree trouble and his approach found the sand left him needing an eagle on the par-5 9th.
Things looked a little grim when his tee shot found a fairway bunker.
“We all know it's the magical number in golf and I was so bummed when that tee shot went in the bunker,” Thomas said after the round.
“Thought I hit a perfect drive. I was going to carry the bunker at the downslope and have about an 8-iron in, and I saw some sand flying and I was ready to punch something.
“I was pretty upset about that, because I felt like all chances right there were gone; barring holing a wedge or something like that.”
But after seeing Berger find the green from the same trap Thomas knew it was possible and the green light was on.
A 5-iron from 206 yards found the mark leaving him with his chance at history from just 14 feet, 11 inches.
“I was calm, I wasn't too nervous over the putt,” Thomas added.
When he let it roll and it dropped Spieth and Berger showed more emotion then the man himself.
“I think I might have fist pumped harder than he did. I think he was in the zone and I don’t think he knew where he was at the time,” Spieth laughed when recalling the moment this week.
Of course Spieth and Berger had played their part – by not creating tension.
“It was kind of like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter or a perfect game,” Spieth said.
“You just kind of talk about anything else other than the round. I'm not out there going, hey, JT you're on 59 watch with five holes left.
“It was a special day as part of a special year for him.”
When the dust settled he had become the youngest player in history to shoot 59 on the PGA TOUR at just 23.
David Duval was 27 when he managed the feat at the CareerBuilder Challenge in 1999.
“Any time you can be the youngest at something is awesome,” Thomas said.
“Obviously you only have so long to achieve it. That was cool to get that done.”
He was just the second player to go sub-60 with a bogey (Furyk).
It matched the lowest opening in PGA TOUR history with Paul Goydos from the 2010 John Deere Classic.
It was three shots better than the previous lowest first round in Sony Open history.
Justin Thomas joins the 59 club at Sony
ROUND TWO – EAGLE LANDS AGAIN
Thomas played his opening nine holes on Friday in 2-under before making three straight birdies on the back nine.
But he played the next five holes 1-over meaning his chances at a new 36-hole scoring record appeared slim.
But just like the day before a final hole eagle left him with a 6-under 64, taking the all-time 36-hole PGA TOUR scoring record at 123.
It knocked Pat Perez, David Toms and Jason Day from the mantle.
“I definitely haven't shown the world my best golf. I haven't even shown the world great golf, or consistent, great golf,” he famously said afterwards.
It beat the Sony Open 36-hole record by three shots and his five-shot lead was an equal record with Paul Azinger (2000) and Brad Faxon (2001).
Justin Thomas sets 36-hole record at Sony
ROUND THREE – LATE SURGE
The weekend began with the question – could Thomas possibly keep the roll going or would he inevitably slow down.
Eight straight pars had most thinking the record run would be over. But Thomas would dig deep when not at his best and find five birdies in the last 10 holes for a 65. He wanted six.
His 188 stroke total tied the TOUR 54-hole scoring record with Steve Stricker from the 2010 John Deere Classic.
“I really wanted to birdie those last three because I was aware of the record,” Thomas said.
“Not that I'm disappointed with anything that I did today, but yeah, I wanted it.”
It beat the previous best Sony Open 54-hole record by five-shots and his own personal 54-hole record by eight.
He had amassed a seven-shot lead, the biggest through three rounds in Sony Open history, beating Jack Nicklaus’ six-stroke lead in 1974.
Justin Thomas is in total control at Sony
ROUND FOUR – CAPPING IT OFF IN STYLE.
As Thomas warmed up for Sunday’s final round his nerves were intense.
“All I could hear about from everyone and reading everything is no one has ever blown a seven-shot lead before. A lot of things go through your head when you wake up at 6:30 and you don't tee off until 12:40,” Thomas said.
“It definitely affected me. I woke up nervous and anxious and with unknowns. It was in the back of mind the entire warm up.
“The whole day I knew I needed to shoot 5-under. I said that on the car ride here. I was trying to shoot seven or eight (under). But I knew five (under) was the lowest or the highest I wanted to shoot.”
When he was 1-over through his opening seven holes things did not look promising.
But five birdies in his next seven holes meant he needed just one more in the last four holes to break the 72-hole mark.
Par on 15. Par on 16. Par on 17…
It would come down the to the last again.
“I knew I needed to birdie 18 on Sunday to break Tommy Armour’s record so it was something to aim at for sure,” he said.
“To do it was cool. This week was something different. For me to win by seven is a huge, huge deal to me. I know if I get there again in the future, I will be able to have this to look back on.”
Of course history shows Thomas would win twice more last season, including a maiden major championship, to take his tally for the year to five and set him up for his win in the FedExCup.
Justin Thomas completes the Hawaiian swing at Sony
STATS THAT MATTERED
Thomas ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and second for Strokes Gained: Putting on his way to victory at Waialae. He was also fourth in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green as part of a well-rounded performance.
His +1.886 per round gained on the greens marked a career best for him on the PGA TOUR at the time.
He led the field in driving distance at 309.6 yards and was 18.3 yards longer than the tournament average and 4.6 yards longer than second placed Tony Finau. A whopping 69.6 percent of his drives were over 300 yards.
This translated into the shortest average approach after tee shots at 21.2 yards shorter than the field. He averaged just 138 yards left on approach.