Justin Thomas will win the Masters this coming Sunday. I am sure of it. Or he will miss the cut because of the KSR Curse I am creating as I write this. That might happen, too.
Whatever the case, though, Thomas is a player to watch this weekend, not just because he is a Kentuckian, but because it is his time to shine at Augusta National, a place where he has struggled (by his standards) in three career tries.
In 2016, Thomas’ first year at the event, he got off to a nice start with an ace in Wednesday’s Par-3 Contest. But when it came time for the real golf, he finished the weekend with a T39 after breaking par only once, on Sunday, when he was well out of contention. He shot 76-73-78-71 in his Masters debut.
In 2017, Thomas entered the tournament with high expectations, having already won three events that season, plus setting a new record for the youngest player in history to card a 59 in a PGA round. But he got off to another slow start in the Masters, narrowly making the cut by two strokes with a +5 going into the weekend. Once again, his Masters dreams fell short in a T22 finish with rounds of 73-76-71-70.
Last season, Thomas had already established himself as one of the best players in the entire world by winning the PGA Championship, his first major victory, and four other tournaments in his breakout 2016-17 season. He had also climbed to second in the World Golf Rankings and was considered one of the favorites to take the green jacket. The unforgiving Augusta National golf course had other plans, though, and Thomas could only manage a T17. An improvement, but still another finish outside the top 15 in his third try.
This year, his fourth year, he is taking a brand new approach. Instead of clocking in for eight-hour practice days in the week leading up to the Masters, Thomas took his family down to the Bahamas for a weekend away from the pre-Masters stress.
“I just went on a little vacation with my parents down in the Bahamas to get my mind in a good place,” he said. “My dad and I would just go play golf like we did when I was eight, nine years old. Just having fun, going fishing, hang by the pool, do whatever just to try to get relaxed.”
Another new twist to his game plan is he plans to be more aggressive, after admitting he played too conservatively in past Masters starts. Will it help? We’ll find out very soon. He tees off at 1:49 p.m. in the second-to-last group of the day, with plans to shake his Masters bug.
I expect big things, in part because I’m financially invested in him at 18-1 to win it, but also because he is too good to fall shy of a strong finish again. He is currently ranked third in total strokes gained this season, his game has no glaring weaknesses for Augusta to expose, and he seems to be in the right mindset ahead of his fourth try.
So forget all about his first three attempts at Augusta. Forget that he has been in a bit of a funk by finishing outside the top 20 in his last three starts this season. Ignore everyone telling you it is Rory’s time or Rickie’s time or DJ’s time. Tiger Woods? That would be AWESOME, but don’t count on it. Count on Thomas being the one in green Sunday evening.
I know I will be rooting for him in between my Masters naps, even though he is a die hard Louisville fan. I am willing to put our differences aside for the biggest weekend in golf.
Bring that Masters trophy home to the Bluegrass, Justin.