Justin Thomas Completes Incredible Year with FedEx Cup Triumph
Justin Thomas completed a sensational and already lucrative season by unlocking the $10m cash box of the FedEx Cup after pipping Jordan Spieth in the rankings, as fellow young American Xander Schauffele won the Tour Championship to secure his second victory on the PGA Tour.
There were essentially two tournaments within one at East Lake, which made for an altogether unpredictable – and often bewildering affair as the leading contenders jostled for position on a checklist of permutations that changed with each birdie and holed putt. The tour would like to market that as being evidence of excitement, but it ultimately results in confusion and finally tedium as viewers are constantly reminded of the various ‘projections’ conjured up by the computer.
Within this season-ending series of four “playoff” events that crown the year-long race for the richest bonus in golf, relative clarity is only possible when one of the top five ranked players on the standings – those who are guaranteed the overall title with a triumph in the finale – reach the summit in Atlanta, Georgia. That has been the case in recent years, papering over the cracks of the system, but such luck was not to befall the game’s biggest and most prestigious circuit this time.
However, it would be difficult to argue against Thomas capping a career year with those rewards. He won five times throughout the exhausting campaign that the PGA Tour now employs – dating back to last October – including his first major championship last month at Quail Hollow. The 24-year-old has transcended social media popularity into exulted status as a professional golfer, and this latest tick on the career bucket list only enhances his standing as one of the sport’s leading exponents.
With 54-hole leader Paul Casey and his nearest challenger Kevin Kisner failing to break par on Sunday, the door was left ajar for the chasers to battle for both titles. Thomas – knowing that a win would secure it all – shot a 66 to finish one-shot back of Schauffele, whose 68 was enough to secure a 12-under total, despite coming agonisingly close to missing a two-foot-putt on the 18th, completing what has been a tremendous rookie year after his maiden success at the Greenbrier in July.
For Thomas, a runner-up finish was enough to take the main prize, as Spieth – the points leader coming into the week – was ultimately four-shots behind in a tie for seventh. Despite the dramatic boost to the bank balance, the certain Player of the Year was disappointed not to birdie the last and force extra holes with the 23-year-old Schauffele, who himself banked a tidy sum of $3.5m.
“I'm bummed to not be in a play-off and have a chance to win, but that was a gutsy birdie Xander made on 18," Thomas told Sky Sports Golf’s Robert Lee. “I was trying to win a golf tournament, but winning the FedExCup is a great bonus.
“It's a feeling I've never experienced before. It's just weird because it didn't come with winning the golf tournament so it's hard to fully appreciate it.
“It's a tremendous honour and I'm really excited to have my name on the trophy.”
A couple of champs. ???????? pic.twitter.com/qY6yjHi3Ky— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 24, 2017
During the mathematical conundrum that was the FedEx Cup race, Spieth was still the man to beat into the back-nine – despite not having won any of the four playoff tournaments – but was left to rue a poor finish, but the Open champion was gracious in conceding the accolade to his close friend.
“It was a great season, if I could repeat it every year for the rest of my career I certainly would,” the 2015 FedEx Cup winner said. “I knew after the 10th hole that I could win the FedEx Cup and they just didn't quite go my way.
“I think it's rightfully so that he (Thomas) wins the season-long race this year. Five wins with a major championship and you'd like the FedEx Cup to go to the most deserving player for the entire year and I think that's him.
“I almost cheated my way into winning the FedEx Cup when he really deserved it. I'm very happy for him - I'm fortunate to have done it and it's really something else.”
Justin Thomas will be able to compare notes with his friend during the Presidents Cup – when they represent the United States for Steve Stricker against Nick Price’s Internationals. Though another monumental achievement for the young man from Kentucky, the FedEx Cup remains a fundamentally uninspiring and poorly structured a concept, over a decade since its inception.
But for the eventual victor – who afterwards shared his February noted year objectives with the media – this season will be a difficult one to surpass. With Thomas and Schauffele leaving Atlanta as the triumphant pair, this was just another reminder that the power is resting in the hands of twentysomething Americans who are embarking on a new Golden Age for golf in the U.S.
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