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Justin Thomas is his own toughest critic.
Despite a victory at the Players Championship in March, his sixth consecutive season with a win on the PGA Tour, being a member of the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team in September and finishing fourth in the FedEx Cup, Thomas reflected on the calendar year that was as he makes likely his final official start of 2021 this week and concluded that he’d grade it, “C at best. C-minus. I would say it has not been a very good year at all.”
Thomas wasn’t done picking at the warts of what by most standards would be a resounding success.
“Definitely haven’t closed out as many tournaments. As good as the finishes I’ve had, I feel like I should have won more than once and played a lot better in the majors,” he said. “Yeah, other than that, no, it’s been great.”
Thomas, 28, isn’t most players. It’s his grit and determinations to squeeze everything out of his immense talent that makes Thomas, winner of the 2017 PGA Championship and a former World No. 1, one of the best players in the game. Thomas still has a chance to end the year on a high note this week in the Maya Riviera, south of Cancun, Mexico, for this week’s World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. Perhaps he could lift his grade into the ‘B’ range with his 15th career Tour title.
And that’s why as much as he’d like to kick back and enjoy the sunshine, turquoise water and endless sandy beaches that is island life at this luxury resort, this is very much a work trip for Thomas.
Justin Thomas hits out of a bunker at the CJ Cup at The Summit on October 15, 2021 at the Summit Club in Las Vegas. Photo by Matthew Bolt/Icon Sportswire via AP Images
“I keep saying every time I come here, this is my third time, that I want to come not for a golf tournament because I’d love to vacation here and get to enjoy it a little bit more,” said Thomas, who noted he trained hard last week.
“I tried to not take this event lightly, I tried to not just think of it as a vacation, although it’s kind of hard to at times as beautiful as it is and maybe wanting to cut practice sessions short to go hang at the beach or the pool.”
Thomas said that his game “feels close,” and he just needs to remove the rust from a lack of competitive rounds as he’s only made one start at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas (T-18) over the course of the last two months.
A year ago, it took Thomas a couple of rounds to rid himself of the rust at El Camaleón Mayakoba Golf Course, but then he shot a third-round 62 to join the trophy hunt before eventually finishing T-12. Thomas finished last year at World No. 3 and slipped a few notches to No. 7 presently, but getting back to the top of the mountain still is in his sights.
“It’s very bunched,” he said. “I’m one or two tournaments away from being in the top two or three again. It’s all about runs out here. Jon’s been on an unbelievable run, DJ got on an unbelievable run, Brooks was on one, Collin’s been on one. Everybody gets on these runs of the top players. And I know that I’m due and ready for another one, it’s just a matter of when it will happen.”
It would come as no surprise if he did just that to Thomas’s Ryder Cup teammate Tony Finau, who considers Thomas to be one of two current players — along with reigning World No. 1 Jon Rahm — with a game that’s “bulletproof.”
“They can hit it high, low, left-to-right, right-to-left, can chip and putt and really make any shot,” Finau said. “Those are the two guys that I’ve played with that I think have that Tiger-esque game when they are playing well.”
Thomas said that hard work is the key to achieving the type of year he’d grade an A, but he also knows what becomes of an all work and no play mentality.
When asked to name his favorite Mexican food, Thomas said, “Does tequila count?”
That’s a drink best served on Sunday after a victory.