Is Justin Thomas going to prep for the Ryder Cup while sipping fine Napa wine and dining at the French Laundry?
Thomas and Max Homa, who clinched one of six automatic picks to the U.S. team on Sunday, were both announced as early commits to play in the Fortinet Championship in Napa, California, the kickoff event to the PGA Tour’s fall season. It’s great news for an event that may struggle to attract players who finished in the top 50 of the FedEx Cup standings and already secured status for next season’s Signature Events and looking for some time off.
Homa is the two-time defending champion and a Fortinet ambassador, who wears the company logo on his shirt so it’s evident why he’s teeing it up that week. But is Thomas, who failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs after finishing 71st in the regular-season standings, in search of points during the fall to back-door his way into the top events next season or does he see the tournament as a way to knock off some competitive rust before the Ryder Cup in Rome?
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson is scheduled to make his six captain’s picks on Aug. 29, which gives players competing this week at the Tour Championship one more week to make a lasting impression. But to hear PGA Tour veteran Geoff Ogilvy, who has served as a vice captain for the International Team at the last three Presidents Cups, tell it, choosing Thomas, slump or no slump, is a no-brainer.
“If they don’t take him, it’s the worst call ever,” Ogilvy said. “He’s the best head-to-head match player in the world.”
Thomas, 30, is a two-time major champion and 15-time PGA Tour winner but he’s been mired in a slump ever since he won the PGA Championship last May. Thomas shot 81 at the U.S. Open in June and 82 at the British Open in July. He attempted to make a run at the FedEx Cup Playoffs in August, adding the 3M Open, where he missed the cut, and Wyndham Championship, where he finished T-11, to his schedule.
While his performance of late is of concern, there’s no denying that Thomas has been a force to be reckoned with on recent U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, tallying 17.5 points for the Americans across two Ryder Cups and three Presidents Cups.
“JT would be my first pick. I’ve been inside the ropes at enough Presidents Cups there’s just no chance you don’t take Justin,” said Ogilvy. “He does something to the team. He goes out front and leads and fist pumps and makes everyone behind him believe.”
If Thomas is selected for the Ryder Cup team, he would be in danger of going nearly two months without competing in a tournament – unless he were to go play on the DP World Tour –before the Ryder Cup in Rome, which is scheduled for Sept. 24-26. So, it would make sense to return to the Fortinet Championship, which is being played Sept. 14-17, for the first time since 2019, where he finished T-4.
According to Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis, Rory McIlroy agrees with Ogilvy’s assessment of Thomas.
“Because JT has that great experience and because as Rory called him ‘an annoyance,’ he should definitely be on that team,” Lewis reported.
Ogilvy noted that if he were Johnson, he would play Thomas and Jordan Spieth – “They are untouchable” – and Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele every match, and if Thomas happened to play poorly, he’d sit him during the fourball session. Asked if he would take the hot hand in Lucas Glover, who has won in two of his last three starts, Ogilvy said, “It’s hard to not take Lucas but you can’t take him at the expense of Justin Thomas.”