Justin Thomas Takes Ownership of His Game Ahead of Crucial Fall Schedule
NAPA, Calif. – The Wyndham Championship was a pivotal week for Justin Thomas, culminating in a heartbreaking chip shot on the 72nd hole that ended his Regular Season and denied him a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs. However, it also marked a significant realization for him – he needed to take full responsibility for his game.
During that week, something was notably different. Thomas was alone; his father and coach, Mike Thomas, wasn't there, and neither was his putting coach, John Graham. This solitude was reminiscent of his early days as a professional golfer when he would work on the range and troubleshoot issues independently. Thomas found himself thriving in this environment.
"I am very lucky to have a team that's very, very involved," Thomas acknowledged. "But I just think for me personally, I had them -- they were there too often to where I became dependent on them, and then I just lost all ownership, all accountability."
In the two months since the Wyndham Championship, Thomas has adjusted his coaching setup. While his father remains his swing coach, Mike Thomas won't be a constant presence at every tournament or range session. This arrangement harks back to Thomas's successful period in 2017-18 when his father balanced his role as a PGA professional with coaching his son.
Mike Thomas will have the flexibility to attend tournaments or offer guidance as a father when needed. However, Justin acknowledges that there are weeks when he doesn't necessarily require a coach, especially when things are going well.
Justin Thomas also made a significant change by parting ways with his putting coach, John Graham. Despite meticulous work on the fundamentals and mechanics of his putting stroke, Thomas still ranked 137th in Strokes Gained: Putting. In his quest to take ownership of his game, he reflected on his junior golf days when putting was about one thing – getting the ball in the hole swiftly.
Thomas explained his decision to Graham: "Basically, what I told [John] was he can't go out and make the putts for me, I have to figure that out, and that's something only I can do."
These decisions have provided Thomas with a newfound sense of freedom. Over the past month, he has focused on restoring his swing to the form that helped him win his first PGA Championship in 2017 and reach the world No. 1 ranking less than a year later.
Thomas reviewed old swing videos from those successful years and compared them to his swing during the 2022-23 season. He observed that his swing had become longer over time, introducing inconsistency. Overcorrections had also led to issues with his backswing width and the club's steepness at the top. The extended break between tournaments was an opportunity to rectify these problems.
The 2022-23 season had been a year of firsts, but not the kind Thomas desired. It marked his first absence from the Playoffs, his first winless Regular Season since 2015, and his first time missing multiple major cuts. It was also the first year he relied on a captain's pick to make a U.S. National Team, which added to the mounting pressure.
However, the Fortinet Championship this week brings a first that Thomas eagerly anticipates – a chance to implement the changes in tournament play. He aims to finish the fall season between No. 51 and 60 on the FedExCup standings, earning him spots in two Signature Events for 2024: the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and The Genesis Invitational.
Furthermore, Thomas is using this time to fine-tune his swing ahead of the Ryder Cup. He acknowledges the absence of pressure to justify his captain's pick, as Zach Johnson already assured him of a spot on the team. This freedom allows Thomas to focus on playing his best golf.
"It's just me being me again and trying to just dig it out of the dirt," Thomas concluded, looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the crucial fall season.