World's best? Thomas shows he can deliver on big stage
Less than two months ago, Justin Thomas was asked if he was the best player in the world when it all clicked.
The question came after the American shot a record-breaking 63 at Erin Hills at the U.S. Open in June.
Thomas had just broken the U.S. Open record score relative to par with a nine under third round, but a 75 on the Sunday saw him finish tied for ninth and eight shots behind winner Brooks Koepka.
"No reason to answer that," he said when asked. "I can't win with the answer to that question."
He was right, but less than two months later at Quail Hollow, Thomas would show more than just glimpses of his talent.
Thomas shot a 59 during the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, leading to his fourth PGA Tour win and second of the year.
While there would be no such stunning round in Charlotte, four consistent showings gave the 24-year-old much better – a first major title.
He still delivered when it mattered after a bogey-birdie-bogey start in the final round.
Thomas birdied the seventh – as he probably needed to – and then holed a 36-footer at nine.
At the 10th, he got some luck – as he probably needed, and maybe deserved – as his tee shot came off a tree and bounced onto the fairway. His eight-foot birdie putt then sat on the edge of the hole for 12 seconds, but dropped.
As the great Tiger Woods put it, his nearest rivals faltered, but Thomas stayed steady, a chip in at 13 giving him a highlight moment.
Congrats JT!!!! Way to rise above the carnage and out execute everyone on that back nine. @JustinThomas34— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) August 13, 2017
The 'Green Mile', the tough closing stretch that gave so many players problems, should have made Thomas nervous.
He held his nerve to make a six-footer for par at 16, before heading to the 17th. With the pin on the left nearer to water, plenty before him had safely headed right, and Thomas could have been forgiven for doing similar. Instead, he put a seven-iron to within 15 feet, holing the birdie putt and virtually sealing his win. Thomas completed a three-under 68, following rounds of 73, 66 and 69.
No 59s or 63s, but with a much better end result. Capable of going low and now having shown he can produce consistency on the biggest stage, perhaps Thomas will one day revisit that question.