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Posted March 26, 2019, 2:59 pm
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Justin Thomas eager to win another major

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    Justin Thomas hits out of the bunker on the 16th hole during the first round of the Honda Classic Thursday at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, February 28, 2019. (ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post)

Maybe this will be the year that former world No. 1 Justin Thomas makes a run at a green jacket.

Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner and player of the year that season, has yet to crack the top 15 in three appearances at Augusta National Golf Club.

He tied for 39th in his Masters debut in 2016, tied for 22nd in 2017 and tied for 17th last year. He’s surprised he hasn’t finished higher.

“I’ve been very comfortable for three years now,” he said. “I just haven’t played very well. I don’t think there’s many courses consistently that could fit my game much better.

“I think I honestly get too excited and too amped up and honestly over-prepared for it,” Thomas said. “I think I put too much effort into wanting to win the Masters or winning a major, whereas it’s just another tournament at the end of the day.”

One lesson he’s learned is not to overdo it in the days leading up to the start of the tournament.

“There’s no reason for me to go in there, wear myself out before I even get there and prepare and just fry myself, and then come the weekend it’s hard to maintain that high level of playing, especially if I have it early in the week,” he said.

He went to Augusta National for a visit in early March, not just for pre-tournament preparation but because he simply loves the course, he said.

“There’s no place I enjoy more going to play a fun round of golf or any round of golf than Augusta, so I hopefully just have a lot more success over there,” he said.

During a scouting trip, Thomas pays particular attention to Augusta National’s undulating and slick bentgrass greens.

“For me it’s always around the greens. I think it is for anybody,” he said. “You have to have such control of the ball, pitching and chipping and wedging, whether it’s spin direction or top spin, back spin and leaving it in the correct spot under the hole, and then you have to be able to make a lot of those short to mid-range putts.”

Thomas, 25, is one of five players to have won nine times on the PGA before age 26 in the past 30 years. The others were Tiger Woods (29 wins), Jordan Spieth (11), Rory McIlroy (10) and Phil Mickelson (also with nine).

Of that group, only Mickelson didn’t have a major championship among those victories.

Thomas is not being particular about where his next major comes from.

“I want to win every major just as bad as I want to win the Masters,” Thomas said. “Sometimes it’s easy to say, and definitely the Masters has its history and, yeah, I love the golf course and I get so excited to play it every year, but I would be just as pleased lifting up a claret jug (for winning the British Open) as putting on a green jacket.”

Thomas was one of the few bright spots on the U.S. team that was dusted by the Europeans in the Ryder Cup in September.

He went 3-1 in team play with Spieth, then was chosen by captain Jim Furyk to open singles play against four-time major champion McIlroy. They came to the 18th hole tied. McIlroy struggled and was soon out of the hole. He conceded the match to Thomas.

“It’s so cool that the captain had the faith in me to send me out,” Thomas said.

Masters Record - Justin Thomas

Year Place Score 1 2 3 4 Earnings
2018 T17 -4 74 67 70 73 $170,500
2017 T22 +2 73 76 71 70 $105,600
2016 T39 +10 76 73 78 71 $46,000