TULSA, Okla. – “Holy s—!”
Mike Thomas’ first reaction was nothing if not genuine as he joined his wife, Jani, who was perched on the hill behind the 18th green as their son Justin found the putting surface at the 75th and final PGA Championship hole. 2022.
Mike Thomas didn’t make this statement out of exasperation or surprise, but more pride that their son overcame the odds. Justin Thomas watched the day seven shots behind Mito Pereira and didn’t miss a shot in a 3-hole playoff where he went 2 under par to claim his second PGA Championship with a shot over Will Zalatoris.
Major wins come in many different flavors, but most winners can point to at least one lucky rebound or break that made the difference.
While many will point to the five birdies Thomas made in the last 10 holes of regulation, or the birdie-birdie start in the playoffs, the turning point of the round came when Thomas bogeyed the par-3 6th hole.
Playing 218 yards, it was tied for the third toughest hole in the final round and the fifth toughest in the championship.
When Thomas stepped on the tee, he had just birdied the par-5 5th hole and was tied for the round, still seven strokes behind Pereira.
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The tee shot went straight immediately and luckily didn’t go into the penalty area. Left with 118 yards to the green, Thomas missed his best shot, going under the ball, and he hit a tree.
Again Thomas got a nice break and the ball, which could have gone anywhere, found a bunker. Then he hit what caddy Jim “Bones” Mackay called one of the best shots of the day, a corner throwing cut out of the bunker from 100 yards to 20 feet. Thomas made the putt for bogey.
“I hit it, I hit it cold,” Thomas said of his 5-iron on the 6th hole. “It was the best bogey I’ve ever done in my life, for sure.”
After recovering a bogey in what could only be described as something like a game of pinball, Thomas launched his practice on the difficult 7th hole, then he and Mackay determined the distance.
“We get the yardage, you’re like, we still have to hit the 5 iron,” Mackay said. “So from the next hole, the water to the right of the green, the green sloping left to right, he now has to step up, hit a shot with that club that he put down 20 minutes ago.”
What Mackay called arguably his best shot of the day and best swing of the week, Thomas hit his approach 10 feet from 197 yards.
The birdie putt narrowly missed, but from then on Thomas birdied seven of the remaining 11 holes in regulation and three holes in the postseason.
“He’s got shots,” Mackay said. “You can’t fake it here, winds blowing, major championship nerves, guys had shots and he showed you guys today, especially at the end.”
As Thomas put his tees and ball back in his bag and retrieved his watch, Thomas looked up at Mackay and said with a smile, “not many guys win a PGA Championship by hitting a shot.”
More PGA Championship morning coverage
– Justin Thomas Banks $2.7 million from a record purse
– Thomas outlasts Zalatoris in playoffs to win PGA
– What is the next step for Tiger Woods after WD at the PGA?