The recent PGA Championship, the second major of the 2022 golfing calendar, was a kaleidoscope of shifting emotions for both professionals and fans alike. Rory McIlroy started fast, carding a five-under par first round as he threatened to break his major drought, before tailing off and making way for maiden major chasers Will Zalatoris and Mito Pereira.
But their final round capitulations left the door open for Justin Thomas to swoop in. The American seemed out of contention in the sports betting markets, as he was eight shots adrift of the leaders with only 10 holes left to play. But some fine play on the back nine clawed him back into contention at -5, and a double-bogey on the final hole for Pereira, as the Chilean couldn’t hold his nerve, forced a play-off between Zalatoris and Thomas.
The former PGA Championship winner’s wealth of experience perhaps paid off in the three-hole play-off against the promising Zalatoris, as ‘JT’ beat his younger compatriot to land what was just the second major of his career — which was more than a long time coming after he won the same trophy at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, back in 2017.
“I was eight back with 10 holes to go. That’s unfathomable,” a stunned Thomas said after his victory. “If I was looking at leaderboards, I probably would not have thought I even had a chance to win. It’s a huge learning lesson for me.”
“You’ve got to play golf. Those majors and in golf tournaments, anything can happen. I just kind of kept plugging along, and somehow it happened. It was a whirlwind of a weekend.
“Five years has felt like an eternity since Quail Hollow. I was definitely glad that I could finally answer the question of when am I going to get my second [major] versus just being a one-hit wonder.”
Indeed, half a decade is a very long time to go without winning a major, and with every passing year comes more and more pressure to put that drought to bed — just ask Rory McIlroy, who is now in his eighth year without winning one of golf’s big four tournaments and understandably felt like he let this one slip from his grasps.
But any mental block that Thomas might have had built up over those five years will hopefully be quashed and he can perhaps play with a bit more freedom in the US Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, later this month as he looks to add to his tally of major triumphs and prove that he can perform at the top level outside of the PGA Championship.
The Players Championship victory at TPC Sawgrass last year was proof, as if it was needed, that Thomas is still one of the best players in the world, and it’s worth noting he won an impressive nine PGA Tour events, including the Players, during that wait for a second major. So, it’s not like he completely fell off the radar for a period, like Jordan Spieth for example, who dropped out of the top 50 after a barren spell.
It will be a relief for Thomas to be back in the big time after landing a second PGA Championship, but at the same time, he will be hoping that he can kick on from here now and not have to spend another five years watching on from the clubhouse as his fellow professionals enjoy the adulation of winning majors.