Players (almost) always behave in a civilized, respectful manner, especially towards their opponents. They are usually quick to compliment their opponents before boasting about their own achievements. But sometimes, when there’s $15 million at stake, decorum gets thrown out the window.
When asked by a reporter who would get his vote for Player of the Year at the Tour Championship presser, Jon Rahm went down the list of contenders and showered them each with praises, reciting stats to back up each player’s case.
Dustin Johnson was his typical aloof self, stating “I’m not sure yet. I think this week will help decide that”. While the youngster Collin Morikawa kept it humble and in perspective, something fans have become accustom to seeing from the 23-year-old star.
American Justin Thomas, however, was in no mood for such pleasantries. When a reporter asked who would get his vote for Player of the Year, his answer was simple and deadpan. “Me”.
Justin Thomas is former World Number One.
In 2017, Thomas experienced a breakout year, winning five PGA Tour events, including the PGA Championship, his maiden major championship, and also winning the FedEx Cup championship.
He’s also the third-youngest player to win 13 times on the PGA Tour since 1960. The only two who got to that level quicker? Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. If Thomas hopes to be Player of the Year, he will likely need a win this week at East Lake.
Or, at the very least, a strong finish with a dark-horse contender taking home the FedEx Cup. A win would be an uphill battle. With the staggered leaderboard to begin the tournament, he still sits three shots behind Dustin Johnson before anyone has even struck a shot.
Last year, in the debut of the new handicapped leaderboard format, Thomas was in the pole position. It was a unique experience, being in the lead like that without having struck a shot. When asked if he had any advice for Johnson, Thomas played it close to the vest.
“Without being disrespectful, I really don’t feel like saying that because I don’t want to give him any advice or things that I wish I would have done better,” he said. Thomas admitted that it was a strange feeling starting the week with a lead, and he never felt comfortable with the new format.
“It was tough. It was different,” Thomas said. “That's the best way to describe it. There's nothing that we could simulate or that we've done that when you put your tee in the ground on the first round, you start at 10 under and everyone is behind you”.
Thomas will start this year’s Tour Championship finale third on the points list and at 7 under. Jon Rahm is second and is at 8 under followed by Webb Simpson (6 under) and Collin Morikawa (5 under) rounding out the top 5.