Johnson, Thomas compare favorably
June 12, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
10 players to watch at the 2018 U.S. Open
SOUTHHAMPTON, N.Y. – One is 6-foot-4. The other 5-foot-10. But both pack a punch.
Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson sit one-two in the FedExCup and the world rankings. They are the dominant duo in golf at the moment.
Thomas leads the FedExCup. Johnson, the world rankings.
In some ways they are similar. In others, they couldn’t be further apart.
Thomas has seven PGA TOUR wins since the 2016 U.S. Open won by Johnson.
Johnson has won nine times since Oakmont. His most recent win came Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, where he eagled the par-4 18th for a six-shot victory. The win allowed him to take back the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, a post he’d held for 64 weeks before Thomas’ four-week reign.
That represents a 22.5-percent win percentage in that time.
He also has 22 Top-10s in the same period (most on TOUR).
Thomas has 21 Top-10s to almost match him.
They each have one major after Thomas claimed the 2017 PGA Championship.
Thomas is the current FedExCup champion and PGA TOUR Player of the Year. Johnson was Player of the Year in 2016.
This season, Thomas ranks second on TOUR in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and is third in scoring average. He’s seventh in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and eighth in driving distance.
Johnson leads the TOUR in scoring average, Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. He’s 10th in driving distance and 12th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green.
Put simply they have easily earned their place at the top of the rankings. And they’ll play the first two rounds at Shinnecock Hills with the player who was the undisputed No. 1 for more than a decade. Thomas, Johnson and Tiger Woods tee off at 1:47 p.m. on Thursday.
But while DJ and JT are similar in stellar play they are poles apart elsewhere.
Justin Thomas Dustin Johnson Statistic Rank Stat Rank Stat FedExCup Rank 1 1,949 2 1,803 Official World Golf Ranking 2 8.99 1 9.28 SG: Off-the-Tee 16 .588 1 1.036 SG: Approach-the-Green 7 .833 12 .763 SG: Around-the-Green 53 .232 51 .237 SG: Putting 36 .376 20 .552 SG: Tee-to-Green 2 1.653 1 2.036 SG: Total 3 2.030 1 2.587 Driving Distance 8 311.3 10 310.8 Driving Accuracy 143 58.28% 147 58.08% Greens in Regulation 24 69.44% 20 69.86% Sand Save Percentage 34 55.81% 56 53.33% Eagles (per hole) 2 66.5 1 65.5 Birdie Average 5 4.50 3 4.80 Scoring Average 3 69.362 1 68.827
Johnson wants you to believe he’s a simple soul. And in some ways, he is. He stands up on the tee, belts the ball as far as he can, and then wedges it close. When he makes his fair share of putts he contends.
He says not much more goes into it.
“I'm not really thinking about anything,” he said regarding his swing.
Johnson always keeps his answers brief. Golf is an endlessly complex game, but Johnson has a gift for keeping it simple.
Johnson rarely shows emotion. He forgets a bad shot quicker than a goldfish.
While Johnson was lightly-recruited out of high school and a late bloomer at tiny Coastal Carolina, Thomas was a star from his junior days – he first visited Scotty Cameron’s putter studio when he was 9-years old -- and he helped powerhouse Alabama to an NCAA Championship. He was college golf’s player of the year as a freshman and turned pro after two years in Tuscaloosa.
Thomas is more analytical. He’s a thinker around the course. But distance is still a huge part of his game.
He grew up in the sport. His dad and his grandfather have a long history in it as club pros (Johnson’s father also was a club pro).
Thomas has seen it from all angles from a young age. His grandfather, Paul, competed in the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont and competed alongside Arnold Palmer in a PGA TOUR Champions event. Mike Thomas, Justin’s father, would beat his son in chipping contests throughout Justin’s childhood.
Justin is experienced beyond his tender years.
He plays with emotion for all to see. It doesn’t take much to fire him up. And if he has an opinion, he’s generally not too shy to give it.
Thomas, like Johnson, is bemused and amused someone would think they’re similar beyond the distance factor.
“We have different personalities. We're different ages. He has a family. I don't,” Thomas starts listing the differences…
“Our ball flights are different. We have different putting strokes. We have different swings. Totally different body types. He's more athletic than I am. He's more flexible. He's stronger than I am. He's won more times than I have … I mean, I could sit here and go on and on if you want, but I think you get the picture.”
Of course he is right.
But they do have something in common. They want to be the best.
“I think it's a spot where all golfers want to be. It's definitely a spot where I want to be,” Johnson says of being No. 1. “It's motivation to keep me working hard and keep doing the things I'm doing.”
Thomas only had a brief four-week stint atop the Official World Ranking. He’s driven to get it back. But he’s been a constant presence atop the FedExCup rankings since last summer and now has a chance to complete an unprecedented feat: become the first back-to-back FedExCup champion.
“Seeing every other golfer in the world behind my name is, was a pretty fun thing,” said Thomas, who stayed up late enough to see the OWGR website update to his No. 1 ranking.
There are plenty of challengers who want the spot. Justin Rose has had chances of late. Jordan Spieth would like it back. Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler have desires to add it to their resume. Rory McIlroy and Jason Day want to return to the summit.
Given the way Johnson and Thomas have been playing they’ve got their work cut out for them.