Justin Thomas Replaces DJ as World Number One
THERE were two winners at TPC Sawgrass at the weekend. One of them was, of course, Webb Simpson, who won the Players Championship by four shots, beating a world-class field in the process. The other is Justin Thomas, who finally achieved the world No1 status after rounds of 68 and 66 at the weekend.
And how it mattered to the young American, who has already won seven times of the PGA Tour in his short but remarkable career, including two victories this season. He came to Florida heading the FedEx Cup standings and now he can tell everybody who will listen that he is officially the best golfer on the planet after ending the reign of Dustin Johnson, who had topped the rankings since February last year.
Thomas actually arrived at Sawgrass knowing that he could reach the top of the rankings even if he missed the cut. It would have been an unsatisfactory way to achieve it. Instead, he did it in some style during a final round that featured six birdies and an eagle.
“It means a lot, but it’s something I want to have for a long time, it’s not something I just want to have once. I don’t care how I get it, but I would much rather shoot 10 under par at the weekend and earn it as opposed to missing the cut and DJ not playing well.”
It was a remarkable weekend for Thomas, who made the cut bang on the mark. He has admitted that he became obsessed about becoming world No1 and that it began to affect his play. And having achieved it, all that was on his mind was heading home to enjoy the achievement with his family. He is now going to take a short break after playing in three successive tournaments.
“I love Sawgrass, always have,” he said. “There is something special about this course. It’s so exciting to play because I honestly feel like you can shoot nine, 10 or 11 under par, because of the length of the course [it only measures around 7,200 yards] and if you are driving it well and how good the greens are.”
Thomas need have few concerns about only being number one on one occasion. Back in 1997, Tom Lehman reached the summit for a solitary week and says: “It’s something nobody can ever take away from you. It’s something that is always next to your name, and there aren’t many people who have gotten there.”
The best news for everybody who follows this game is that Thomas is likely to face several challenges in the months and years ahead. Johnson said that he has loved being regarded as the best player on the planet and is determined to get back there. Open champion Jordan Spieth will surely find himself in the mix again soon, while England’s Justin Rose started the Players Championship knowing that if he won and other results went his way then he, too, could have topped the rankings.
Jason Day, of Australia, has now won twice in 2018 and is climbing the rankings faster than anybody else. And can we seriously rule out Rory McIlroy throwing his hat in the ring if he can ever get his putting sorted out?
There also remains the tantalising prospect that Tiger Woods could yet reclaim his crown after yet another glorious weekend in Florida. The 42-year-old 14-time major champion just keeps rolling back the years and it can surely now only be a matter of time before he wins again. And would anybody seriously bet against him winning that 15th major?
When you add Spanish sensation Jon Rahm and England’s Tommy Fleetwood to the mix, and throw in Xander Schauffele, you will quickly realise that Thomas cannot possibly rest on his laurels if he wants to remain at the top of the pile for the rest of 2018. These are exciting times.
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