New hero

July 6, 2018

Even though his stint atop the summit of the Official World Golf Ranking lasted only a month, Justin Thomas has proven himself to be truly a worthy No. 1 in every sense of the way.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - NOVEMBER 01: Justin Thomas of the United States poses with the CIMB Classic Trophy after he won it by 26 under 262 during round four of the CIMB Classic at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club on November 1, 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
Justin Thomas with his first CIMB Classic title. Photo credit Getty Images

By Chuah Choo Chiang

Senior director, communications of the PGA TOUR

At 25, Thomas is the reigning FedExCup champion, an eight-time PGA TOUR winner, holder of one major title and counting, he’s shot the magical 59 once plus he is a firm fan favourite – in May, he helped make a fan’s wedding proposal become a Twitter sensation and headline news on CNN world sports.

Sporting and entertainment celebrities including Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, Tiger Woods, Kid Rock, Tom Brady and Justin Timberland are amongst some of Thomas’ buddies, he hangs out with Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Smylie Kaufman during their now-famous spring breaks and he has also played golf with American President Donald Trump.

Despite his rise to fame and accumulation of wealth – Thomas has earned over US$22 million in prize winnings in a little over three years – he has kept both his feet firmly on the ground, which ironically is in sharp contrast to his dynamic golf swing which sees him almost tip-toeing on his right foot at the point of impact. The power he generates propels the ball to incredible distances for a guy who stands at merely 1.77 meters and is a lightweight 65kg.

The son of a PGA teaching professional, Thomas became the fourth youngest world No. 1 after Woods, Rory McIlroy and Spieth in mid-May, thanks to an 11th place finish at THE PLAYERS Championship, the PGA TOUR’s flagship tournament.

Such was the thrill that he stayed up late into the evening, waiting eagerly for the world ranking’s official website to refresh with his name perched at the top. “I waited to refresh it and saw it and it was pretty cool. Seeing every other golfer in the world behind my name was a pretty fun thing,” said Thomas, who screenshot the page for safekeeping.

Asian golf fans, in particular those in Malaysia, have been fortunate to witness Thomas announce his arrival on the big stage. He claimed his breakthrough PGA TOUR title at the CIMB Classic at TPC Kuala Lumpur in 2015 and returned 12 months later to repeat successfully as champion.

His second title in Malaysia provided the launch pad to a stunning 2016-17 PGA TOUR campaign which saw him winning four other tournaments including a first major at the PGA Championship and culminating with the season-long and prestigious FedExCup crown and the Player of the Year award. “To win two in a row (in Malaysia) ranks right up there with my accomplishments,” said Thomas last year.

His triumph at the inaugural CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in South Korea last October was another huge rubberstamp to his growing credentials and character. Battling fatigue, he dug deep into his reserves and ran on gas fumes to pip Marc Leishman in a playoff.

Thomas’ scorecard this season’s makes impressive reading too with a victory at the Honda Classic in February, four top-10s, four other top-20s and not a single missed cut from 11 starts at the time of writing.

He is also intent on chasing a small slice of history as no FedExCup champion has repeated, not even Woods during his dominant years.

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