This past Saturday in Saginaw, Mother Nature broke 50 degrees outside, so naturally, I’m ready to polish off the golf clubs and go out for a game of 9-hole. It wasn’t until I realized this is Michigan and snow might be on the ground until halfway into June that I came to the conclusion that even though I can’t play golf yet, I can certainly watch it. And watch it I will!
The Millennial generation is not only a unique and dynamic group of young people in corporate America, but in professional sports as well. These youthful folks are raising eyebrows and making statements, from Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys to Joel Embiid of the 76ers. However, professional golf may have more rising stars than any other professional sport out there. And while I’m stuck inside watching golf, there’s one young star I’ve got my eye on more than anyone else: Justin Thomas.
The 22 year old has won three tournaments in his five starts in the 2017 season, two of them coming in back to back fashion the past couple of weeks. Not only is he leading the FedEx Cup standings, he has more wins in mid-January than defending FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy had at the end of the 2016 season (two). So what, the guy has won a few tournaments. Jimmy Walker won five times in 2014 and he didn’t even come close to winning the FedEx Cup. With Thomas, it’s not just his wins that define him, but it’s his dominant fashion in which he does it, very similar to other current and past stars of golf.
In 2009, then-16-year-old Justin Thomas finished his sophomore year of high school. Instead of going fishing or playing backyard baseball during summer break like most high schoolers, Thomas made the cut at the Wyndham Championship and became the third youngest player to ever make the cut at a PGA Tour event. After high school, he went to play at Alabama, then played on the Web.com Tour, then finally got his PGA Tour card in 2015.
Carding seven top-10’s and 15 top-25’s in his rookie season, Justin Thomas became a well-known name throughout the PGA. Then, in 2016, he collected his first win. Now he’s on a tear, winning three out of five this season. When the kid wins, he wins big, too. In each of his wins, he’s posted scores at 22 under par or better. In his latest win at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Thomas became the seventh player to ever post a score of 59 in a PGA Tour round. With a 64 the next day, he posted the lowest 36-hole score in the history of the PGA. But he didn’t stop there. His 27-under- par score of 253 is the lowest 72-hole score ever recorded in professional golf. Now that’s something to watch.
However, hot on his tail is previous FedEx Cup leader Hideki Matsuyama of Japan. Only 437 points behind Thomas, Matsuyama only needs one win’s worth of FedEx Cup points to regain the lead. My bold prediction for the 2017 PGA season? The winner of this year’s FedEx Cup is already in the top two spots. That’s right, either Hideki or Thomas will win it. Now before you scoff at me for picking the top two golfers to win it all, keep in mind only one tournament so far in 2017 has featured any of the top four golfers in the world. There’s still a lot of golf left to play.
As for some other big names in golf, I think Rory gets left in the dust and doesn’t win a FedEx Cup playoff event. Dustin Johnson and Jason Day go back and forth, splitting time as the coveted world number one golfer. Jordan Spieth collects another major but doesn’t have an incredible year. Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia continue their droughts of major championships. Henrik Stenson wins a few times, and Patrick Reed finishes high in majors. Oh, and by the way, in case you forgot and weren’t excited for golf this year, Tiger Woods is back.
All in all, it sounds like I should at least be entertained until I can get out on the course and hack away. In the meantime, I’ll just continue to marginalize my successes by watching Thomas, a year older than me, go out and make millions of dollars by winning PGA Tour events.