Golf: Thomas' Quail Hollow win will unlock potential, father says
By Larry Fine
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - The father of PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas said his son's triumph on Sunday would be "huge" for him, unlocking the potential of the temperamental and impatient 24 year old.
Thomas held his nerve to claim his maiden major title by firing a three-under 68 on Sunday at Quail Hollow to win by two strokes.
The victory may also have struck a personal chord for Thomas as he captured the crown most dearly wanted by his friend and longtime junior golf rival Jordan Spieth, who needs the PGA to complete his career grand slam of major professional titles.
"This is huge. This is huge," said Mike Thomas, a PGA professional. Just lets him know he can do this."
Thomas's veteran caddie Jimmy Johnson agreed.
"What he learned is that he’s got to play his game and not force it. Let the course come to him and play a little smarter," Johnson told reporters. "He was trying too hard maybe. Just letting his potential go through him now, hopefully."
Thomas had already proven he belonged on the PGA Tour with three tournament titles this year.
But he trailed fellow 24-year-old Spieth 3-0 in the majors department and often let his frustrations show on the golf course, impatient to show he was among the best.
Mike Thomas said he could sense his son was ready for the big occasion on Sunday.
"It was like, OK, I got this," said the elder Thomas, the head professional at Harmony Landing Country Club in Goshen, Kentucky, since 1990. "I could see in his eyes out there early on in the round, in his body language."
Mike Thomas said he spent a lot of time talking to his son about handling his competitive fire and emotions on the course.
"Justin's very fiery, he's very emotional, he's very aggressive," the winner's father said. "When you're that way and it doesn’t work out, it can go in the other direction pretty quick.
"We spent the last year talking about 'are you emotional or are you angry? Let’s make a distinction here.' I mean, he’s 24. He’s got to be more mature.
"He showed a lot of maturity this week. Yesterday was the day he did not play very well and his maturity allowed him to grind out a score out there."
Thomas made the most of Saturday's round, registering a 69 that kept him within two shots of the lead.
With Thomas' father and grandfather Paul both PGA members, having his maiden major come at the PGA had added significance.
"This is really special, it’s pretty cool," said Mike Thomas. Yeah, having my dad being a PGA member and still alive I’m sure when I turn my phone on it’s going to be pretty blown up. I mean, it’s pretty cool."I'm sure he‘s watching at home, though he might be napping by now."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by ......)