NORTON, Mass. – Justin Thomas struggled to close out tournaments early in his career, but by any measure that no longer is the case.
Thomas posted an impressive 5-under 66 final round Monday in the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston for a three-stroke victory over Jordan Spieth (scores: http://bit.ly/1j3khNH). In winning his fifth tournament of the PGA Tour season, Thomas, the recent PGA champion, tightened his grip on player of the year (“With 4 W’s, Thomas leads pack for POY,” Aug. 30, http://bit.ly/2vItLtP).
Thomas shot 17-under 267, followed by Spieth (67–270) and Marc Leishman (70–271).
Spieth grabbed the lead early Monday, playing his first four holes in 5 under, sparked by an 8½-foot putt for eagle at the par-5 second hole.
Thomas, 24, showed a patience that he sorely lacked early in his career. He caught Spieth with a 32-foot eagle putt on the drivable 301-yard par-4 fourth hole.
Leishman made the turn in 6-under 30 to get to 18 under, but he gave nearly all of those strokes back on the homeward nine, struggling to a 5-over 40. Thomas pulled away by playing his final 14 holes in 2 under.
“I'm a lot better at golf,” said Thomas, in his third season on the PGA Tour. “I think I'm stronger. I'm in better shape. I'm way more mentally tough. Things don't affect me as much. I mean, I'm still fiery. I still get angry. That's just my personality, my character; that will probably never change. But in terms of letting it roll over into the next shot, I think I'm way better at that. I only had two bogeys this week. I'm probably just as proud of that as I am winning.”
More than even bogey-free golf, Thomas needed to play with a cool head, especially when he trailed playing competitor Leishman by one stroke at the turn and then with the outcome in doubt down the stretch.
“He's become a tremendous closer,” said Spieth, a runner-up for a second consecutive playoff event. “It's tough when you've got somebody that's that good and hot and can close, and he's two shots ahead of you starting the day.”
Spieth moved to the top of the FedEx Cup points list (http://bit.ly/Wy720S) entering the BMW Championship on Sept. 14-17 at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, Ill.
With his first playoff victory, Thomas improved to second in FedEx Cup points and moved to fourth in the Official World Golf Ranking. He expects to continue climbing.
“I think I've just gotten a lot better with my off time, to just take time off,” Thomas said. “That way, when it is time to get back into it, I'm hungry, I'm ready, and I don't like when my friends beat me. I don't like when people beat me. So, I'm putting in work to hopefully beat all them.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli