In 2017, Justin Thomas had 12 top-10 finishes including five wins. One of those wins was his first major, winning the 2017 PGA Championship. He ultimately finished 2nd in the 2017 FedEx Cup Standings.
And it all could have been different because of one shot at the very beginning of the season?
Last year at Kapalua, Thomas had a five-shot lead with five holes to play when he was caught in a battle with Hideki Matsuyama down the stretch in the Tournament of Champions on the Kapalua Plantation Course. Thomas responded with an incredible moment, an 8-iron approach he ripped from 214 yards to 3 feet on the 17th.
A shot he said Monday leading up to the 2018 Tournament of Champions at Kaplaua, set the tone for the entire season (seen in video below).
“The 8-iron in terms of circumstances and what has happening in the tournament, that was one of the best shots I hit last year and of my career.” Thomas explained in a teleconference on Monday. “I had a five shot lead with fie to play and if I don’t hit that, who knows what happens last year. “
His ability to fight through the tension that comes with closing out a tournament with so many great players in the field was more of a mental breakthrough than it was an incredible physical accomplishment which then paved to way for Thomas to win the Tournament.
Now after his remarkable 2017 campaign, he returns to Kapalua for the Senty Tournament of Champions with all other players who won on the tour last season hoping to get his 2018 year off to the same great start.
“I hope that that is my first tournament of the year for the rest of my career,” he explained. “I think it’s well-known by everybody how much we all love it. It’s just a great way to kind of, not ease into the year but get the year going because of how relaxing it is. The course is great. You know, there’s obviously some great places to eat. And who doesn’t like being in Hawaii?”
While competing at a high level is most important, beginning the year at this event is not only an honor as he mentions, but is also exciting because of how the course plays and how the tournament itself is laid out.
“It’s just so fun, it really is” Thomas mentioned. “The course is fun. You can make a lot of birdies on it. The limited field is nice. The rounds go by fast playing in twosomes. It’s just a laid-back vibe. People aren’t really grinding and practicing after their rounds. Just kind of finish up and go to the beach or go to the pool, and great places to eat which is always enjoyable. There’s really nothing negative about the tournament.”
Thomas discussed his 2018 season challenges as simply not trying to compare this coming year to last. He acknowledges that he is constantly going to be asked to compare the two and not getting wrapped up in it will be key for his success going forward.
“It’s a new year with new opportunities,” he stated.
The 2018 opportunities begin with the Sentry Tournament of Champions as it returns to The Plantation Course at Kapalua Jan. 3-7. All four competitive rounds will be broadcast on Golf Channel.