Though Thomas’ name is being bandied about with the proposed Premier Golf League, the 2017 PGA winner has no intentions of bolting the PGA Tour
If Justin Thomas’ world was a golf club, the sweet spot would cover the entire clubface, with no mis-hits and no more need for forgiveness. He’s 28, No. 2 in the world rankings and has 14 PGA Tour wins, including a major and the Players Championship in mid-March.
But in the larger universe of championship golf, some of the planets are tilting off their axes and Thomas finds himself prominently mentioned in a celestial body that’s spinning out of its orbit. For his part, Thomas stands where gravity is the most powerful, with both feet firmly on the ground.
The Premier Golf League — now also known as Super Golf League — has reared its pecuniary head, with its deep Saudi Arabian pockets, looking to pick off golf’s biggest stars. The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, both London newspapers, have reported that offers from $30 to $50 million have been extended to Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson — and Thomas.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan jetted into Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday to the Wells Fargo Championship to address a regularly scheduled player meeting, at which the Premier Golf League was the main and hottest topic. Monahan told the assembled players that anyone who signed on with the renegade organization would be suspended immediately and possibly permanently banned from the Tour.
For his part, Thomas says that if he has received an offer, no one has told him. “For me, I personally am about being No. 1 in the world and winning as many majors as I can and winning as many tournaments as I can and doing historical things on the PGA Tour,” he said from the Quail Hollow Club, site of his 2017 PGA Championship victory. “If I was to go (join the new league), then all those things go down the drain and I can't do that.”
Thomas went out of his way to pledge allegiance to the PGA Tour. “Everybody feels differently,” he said. “And (some players are) in different stages in their career, but I feel like the next 10 years of my career could really be my prime and I want to take advantage of it here.”
In an effort to fend off the Premier Golf League, the PGA Tour created a $40 million bonus pool for the 10 players who are most popular, visible, recognizable and most active on social media, among other things. It’s called the Player Impact Program [PIP] and began in January, although the public didn’t find out about it until last month, when Golfweek revealed the plan.
“I'm not going to pay any attention to [the PIP],” Thomas said. “Obviously it would be great to be the most popular, if you will, but I'm not out here for a popularity contest, I'm out here to win golf tournaments and win as many as I possibly can. If I play good golf, I'll do just fine on that program, and that's the main priority.
“I'm not going to do anything differently. I'm already pretty active on social media. I'm already pretty active in trying to help out other media outlets or other organizations, charities, whatever it is, whether it's internally or known, but no, I'm just trying to play good golf, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Speaking of which, Thomas comes into the Wells Fargo off a T13 at last week’s Valspar Championship at Innisbrook near Tampa, Fla., two weeks after a disappointing T21 finish at the Masters. He finished four rounds at 7-under 277 on the Copperhead Course, 10 shots behind winner Sam Burns, blaming a cold putter for his absence on the leaderboard.
“If I'm putting well this week, I'm winning this tournament without question,” he said at the Valspar. And putting is the aspect of his game that sometimes drags behind his ball-striking. His statistics on the greens are a reflection of his putting as a whole — all over the place. He’s 92nd in strokes gained putting but second in putting average on greens hit in regulation.
“I hit a lot of really, really good putts (at Valspar), a lot of quality putts,” Thomas said Wednesday at Quail Hollow. “Everything fundamentally was pretty good, just the ball wasn't going in. You have weeks like that, but obviously it doesn't get that bad very often and hopefully not ever. But it was just one of those weeks where I felt like I was stroking it well, I felt good over the putter on Thursday and Friday and just nothing went in.”
The good news for Thomas is that Quail Hollow is a course best made for ball-striking, which he put on display at the 2017 PGA. And with two weeks until this year’s PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C., now would be a good time to wind his golf game into something that could possibly be seen as other-worldly.
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