Like Goose in the 1980s classic film Top Gun, Justin Thomas says he has a need for speed.
“I just want some more speed,” he said during his pre-tournament press conference ahead of the CJ Cup in Las Vegas. “I feel like I’ve been good at having another gear, another 5 or 10 yards if I need it, but I don’t necessarily have that other 20.”
Thomas, 27, averaged 304 yards off the tee last season, good for 34th on Tour, so length isn’t necessarily a concern for him, but it just goes to show how distance is king at golf’s highest level.
How Thomas chases it may differ from that of Bryson DeChambeau who has gone undergone a physical transformation over the past year, but they are both in search of the same thing.
“I’m not going to put on 40 pounds, I don’t have the height to do that,” Thomas said. “I’m going to look like a beach ball if I put on 40 pounds. I can get stronger in different parts of my body that can help me hit it farther and gain some distance, but I hit it plenty far enough to win tournaments and do well.”
Justin Thomas poses with the trophy after winning the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges at the Club at Nine Bridges on October 20, 2019 in Jeju, South Korea. (Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Instead, Thomas is emphasizing an exercise routine focused on his lower body while trying to maintain flexibility and mobility in his hips.
“I’m not far off. It’s really about messing with some different stuff and different training and explosiveness to be able to pick up something,” he said. “There’s different ways to do it. I mean, the absolute No. 1 thing is I’m continuing to stay injury free and I’m continuing to progress in a good direction in terms of staying healthy and staying fit. But if I can do that while incorporating some more speed, then that’s big.”
Thomas said he got into the best shape of his life during the Tour’s three-month suspension of play when he was able to workout five times a week, lifting heavier weights, and getting regular treatment from his physical therapist. When the Tour season resumed in June, he found it challenging to maintain that same routine.
“I was as strong as I’ve ever been,” he said. “Once we came back out, we’re going to 90, 95-degree weeks and it’s humid and we’re walking six, seven, eight miles a day. I think when I got back from the Tour Championship I had lost like 13 or 14 pounds from when we started at Colonial. It’s just hard to maintain that routine and all that muscle.”
“It was the lowest I’ve been in a while,” Thomas said of his weight. “I was at 151 when I got back from Atlanta. It was a tough scene.”
Thomas, a two-time CJ Cup champion, returns to defend after shooting 20-under 268 at Nine Bridges Golf Club at Jeju Island in South Korea. But due to the global pandemic, he makes his defense at Shadow Creek Golf Club in Las Vegas.
“I can’t imagine being much farther apart,” Thomas said. “It has the same vibes and seeing the same people involved with the tournament. I even had some Korean barbecue for lunch yesterday, which was still incredible.”
Despite the new venue, Thomas brings a bit of experience to the table. He recalled missing the cut at the 2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and playing Shadow Creek the next day. And little did he know at the time that the CJ Cup would be moved here, but in February, ahead of the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles, he celebrated his mom’s 60th birthday in Las Vegas and prepped for the tournament at Shadow Creek. That could come in handy, though Thomas traditionally hasn’t needed much help during the fall portion of the schedule.
Four of his 13 wins on Tour have come in the fall; no other player has more than two wins during the fall since the Tour went to a wraparound season in 2013-14. Asked to explain his early-season success, Thomas shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’m not sure, but I’m happy the Masters is in the fall this year, so hopefully that will add something, some good vibes.”
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