Justin Thomas was too young to start worrying about his major championship legacy, but watching his best friend, junior sparring partner and fellow 24-year-old Jordan Spieth seeking to become the youngest to complete the career slam was taking a toll.
“Frustration probably isn’t the right word – jealousy definitely is,” he said after his maiden major victory at the PGA Championship. “I mean, there’s no reason to hide it. I would say anybody, they are jealous that I won. I was jealous that Sergio (Garcia) won; that Brooks (Koepka) won; that Jordan won. I wanted to be doing that and I wasn’t.”
This is only Thomas’ third full season on the PGA Tour and second full major cycle. But the guy who shot 59 in winning one of three tournaments early in the season was already itching to join the major ranks after missing the cut in the British Open a month after shooting 63 to earn a place in the final Sunday pairing of the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
With three consecutive rounds in the 60s after starting in 44th place at Quail Hollow, Thomas won’t ever have to worry about being labeled one of the best players without a major. Now he has something his buddy Spieth will be jealously coveting – a Wanamaker Trophy.
“I know that ‘major champion’ will never be taken away from, you know, after my name,” Thomas said. “Hopefully I’m going to win some more, plenty more, a lot more, whatever.”
BIRDIE: Kevin Kisner. A few water balls on the weekend cost him dearly, but the tenacity he showed in leading a major for 60 holes and taking dead aim until his last chance sank in the creek on the 72nd hole will serve him well next opportunity. So will his confidence in his putter.
BOGEY: Jason Day. Whatever he was thinking when he decided not to pitch out of trouble and make no worse than bogey instead of recklessly bumbling to an 8 on the 18th Saturday cost him any chance of contending Sunday.
BIRDIE: Louis Oosthuizen. He commemorated completion of his career runner-up slam (Masters 2012, U.S. Open 2015, British 2015 and PGA 2017) with an epic viral lip-sync to Andra Day’s Rise Up. Do yourself a favor and watch it on @Louis57TM’s Twitter page.
BOGEY: Rory McIlroy. His obvious fear of the new greens meant we were all wrong to believe he was a favorite on a course he once shot 62 to win. But he also seems to be hurt and is considering shutting his game down for the rest of the year. Maybe not a bad idea.
BIRDIE: Hideki Matsuyama. Seventh career top 10 in 19 major starts as pro. Worst finish in last five majors is T14 at British. He’s 25. It’s coming. Maybe as soon as April.
BOGEY: Jordan Spieth. He never challenged in his first attempt to complete the career slam and become the youngest to achieve it, but claiming that the PGA is inherently the hardest for him to win seems odd from a guy who shot the fourth lowest score (17-under) in the major’s history just two years ago.
BIRDIE: Spieth and friends. Sticking around along with Rickie Fowler and Bud Cauley to greet their mate Thomas at the end is one of the coolest trends of these cozy millennials. There’s no reason competitive adversaries can’t be friendly rivals.
OTHER: Rickie Fowler. As is his penchant, a triple and double proved the difference in him winning and finishing T5. He’s still only 28. That door may yield eventually if he keeps kicking it.
BIRDIE: Patrick Reed. Sunday charge fell just short, but runner-up finish was his first top 10 in 16 career major starts and likely guaranteed his qualification for the Presidents Cup team.
BIRDIE: Francesco Molinari. Runner-up’s 64 on Friday and 67 Sunday were two of the 10 lowest rounds of the whole field. Had he not started double-bogey-bogey on Saturday, he might have been the first Italian major winner.
BIRDIE: Brooks Koepka. Of the 13 players who made the cut in every major this year, the U.S. Open champ edged out Matsuyama and Matt Kuchar by a stroke to win the cumulative total slam at 21-under par – 41 strokes better than Lee Westwood.
BOGEY: Wesley Bryan. The former Gamecock and Augusta resident missed the cut in all three of his major starts with a cumulative score of 37-over. Golf is hard.
BIRDIE: Scott Brown. Bookend 73s cost him a shot at a top-four finish and the Masters invite he craves, but it was a good contending experience for a local with only four previous major starts.
BIRDIE: Shorts. For the first time, players were allowed to wear shorts during the steamy practice rounds … and lo and behold the golf world didn’t collapse because of some exposed knees.
BOGEY: Justin Rose. Since losing Masters playoff, the Olympic gold medalist has been irrelevant in his six flagship, major and WGC starts since.
BIRDIE: Chris Stroud. He only got into the field by winning his first PGA Tour event in 290 starts the week before and he made it into the final pairing on Sunday before his fairy-tale golf spikes slipped off.
BIRDIE: Jordan L. Smith. Introducing the next great English golfer. The 24-year-old finished T9 in his major debut. He’s proven himself at every level, winning Order of Merit on PGA EuroPro Tour and Challenge Tour to earn European Tour rookie card this season. He’s already won on that tour as well in Germany last month. You’ve been warned.
BOGEY: Phil Mickelson. Hasn’t broken par in seven consecutive major rounds since Thursday 71 at Masters. Age is undefeated.
BIRDIE: Johnny Harris. Quail Hollow owner has spared no expense in making dramatic changes to upgrade his course and club into a showcase destination venue. I wonder where the Augusta National member gets his inspiration?
BOGEY: Jimmy Walker. The defending champion has been dealing with some Lyme disease issues, but an opening 81 stings regardless.
BIRDIE: PGA Championship. Long anticipated announcement of move to May starting in 2019 will give it a chance to build a stronger identity in the middle of the major batting order. The domino effect (Players to March; season ending by Labor Day) will be great for golf fans and players.
BOGEY: PGA club pros. When the only club pro to not only make the cut but finish among the top 117 is really a veteran tour pro (Omar Uresti T73), the number of exemptions granted needs to be reduced from 20 to about 10. The 20 club pros accounted for 16 rounds in the 80s (and one more withdrew before he got there).
BIRDIE: Quail Hollow. The disparity between rock-hard new greens and mud-ball soggy fairways aside, this course will age into being an excellent regular PGA, Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup and perhaps Tour Championship venue for years to come.
BOGEY: CBS. When even Jim Nantz complains that you have “so many commercials” to juggle, you’ve got a problem.
BIRDIE: Charlotte. Record sales in tickets and corporate suites solidify its future as a major-event town as long as the state legislature doesn’t interfere.