With 17 holes to go on Sunday at Riviera Country Club, Justin Thomas held a 4-shot lead at the Genesis Open. In a sign of respect for his ability to close the deal, several bookmakers halted live bets on Thomas for the next two holes. It appeared JT was headed for an easy win – the 10th of his young PGA Tour career.
He let it slip away, though, and not by the way of a couple of poor swings, or one bad hole, but slowly, and painfully: a three-putt here, a missed four-footer there, and so on. It all added up to a 4-over par 75, and a one-shot loss to J.B. Holmes, who overcame the large deficit by shooting a rather unimpressive 1-under 70.
It was basically a loss by a thousand cuts for Thomas, and he won’t forget it anytime soon.
“It will bother me the rest of my life, one-hundred percent it will,” Thomas said in Mexico on Tuesday.
“There are tournaments I didn’t win my rookie year that still bother me. But in terms of being over it, it’s done with.
“I played well, I just didn’t make the putts and I just made the mistakes that in the past I usually don’t make when I’m playing with a lead. And that’s how you lose golf tournaments with a four‑shot lead.
“But it’s something I’m over. I lost a golf tournament. It’s not like I had somebody in my family passed away or had something major happen to my health or something severe. Life’s going to move on, you know.”
Despite the loss, Thomas should be able to move on quite nicely, as the runner-up finish was his third top-3 in his last four starts. The solo second-place also secured another big haul for JT in terms of money ($799,200) and points (300 FedExCup and 38.4 OWGR) – more money and points than the winner of this week’s Puerto Rico Open will receive.
Thomas says it was a teachable moment for his team.
“I know what I did wrong and Jimmy (Johnson, his caddie) and I know what we both need to improve on to not let it happen again,” Thomas said.
“We feel confident if we have a four‑shot lead teeing it up here on Sunday that we’ll be able to get it done.”
That he’s playing at a golf course where he’s made two starts and owns two top-5s (2nd and T5) certainly can’t hurt the confidence either.
“It’s a cool little golf course. You can play the course a lot of different ways,” Thomas continued.
“Off the tee you can be aggressive and take on some of the doglegs or kind of hit it to where most of the people hit it and then go from there.
“Really, at this altitude it’s just all about staying hydrated and staying rested and getting the numbers right.”
While a win last week in Los Angeles would have moved Thomas to No. 2 in the world rankings, a victory this week in Mexico will move the 25-year old star to No. 1.