Justin Thomas, motivated by the success of his best friend Jordan Spieth and other young players who had won major titles, nailed down his first one on Sunday by capturing the year’s final major – and undoubtedly the one most appropriate to him – with an emotional rally at the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C.
Thomas, 24, is the eighth first-time major winner in the last nine majors dating to Jason Day’s victory in the 2015 PGA. Thomas’ father and grandfather are PGA professionals, and he became the eighth player whose father was a PGA pro to capture the organization’s flagship event.
It seemed like only a matter of time for the Kentucky native, who won for the fourth time this season, one of which was a wire-to-wire romp at the Sony Open in Hawaii when he shot an opening 59. Thomas also shot a 9-under 63 at the U.S. Open this year, the lowest round in relation to par in the championship.
“For me, the PGA definitely had a special place in my heart, and maybe a special drive,” said Thomas, who shot a closing 3-under 68 to beat a trio of challengers by two strokes.
“I want to win every tournament I play in. I want to try to win every major. But the end of the day, this was really cool. For this to be my first one and have my dad here, and I know grandpa was watching at home. I was able to talk to him and that was pretty cool. It’s just a great win for the family.”
Thomas, who began the day two strokes behind Kevin Kisner, leader or co-leader each of the first three rounds, completed 72 holes in 8-under 276. Former British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and American Patrick Reed were next at 278. Reed and Molinari each equaled the day’s low round with 67s and posted their first top-10 finishes in majors.
Second-round co-leader Hideki Matsuyama of Japan was one of five players who held at least a share of the lead on the final day, but slipped back after carding a 72 to tie for fifth with Rickie Fowler, who also had a 67. Kisner, a South Carolina product, shot 74 and fell into a tie for seventh with Canada’s Graham DeLaet.
Thomas won $1.89 million and moved up to No. 6 in the world rankings. He is second behind Matsuyama in the season-long FedExCup standings on the PGA TOUR with the playoffs just a week away.
“I just had an unbelievable calmness throughout the week, throughout the day,” said Thomas, who won $1.89 million and will move to No. 6 in the world. “I truly felt like I was going to win. I remember my girlfriend was supposed to fly out at about 7 and I was like, ‘You need to change your flight to later, because I don’t know, I just feel like I don’t want you to miss this. I feel like I’m going to get it done.’ I just was very confident.”
Jordan Spieth’s quest to become the youngest player to win the career Grand Slam never really got started. With rounds of 72-73-71-70 he finished 3 over. But he was there at the end, anyway, as he and Rickie Fowler and Bud Cauley, some of Thomas’ closest friends, were there to help him celebrate his breakthrough victory on one of the most difficult layouts in recent memory in the PGA Championship.
“It’s the PGA Championship. I’m a PGA member, my Dad’s a PGA member, and it’s just a special moment,” said a teary-eyed Mike Thomas, Justin’s father. “I told him before the round, ‘You know, you’re second in the field in birdies. If you make a bogey you don’t need to panic. Just be smart out there, don’t do something stupid.’ Once he birdied 17, I said to myself on the tee shot on 18, ‘Man, just get this thing on land somewhere. It can be in the beer stand, it doesn’t matter where it is, just get it on land and make a five.’ …
“It’s really special, it’s really cool. To win is so hard, and having my dad being a PGA member and still alive, I’m sure my phone is going to be blowing up when I turn it back on.”
The first person the younger Thomas called when it was all done was his grandfather, Paul, who lives in Columbus, Ohio.