Justin Thomas honors father with PGA Championship win

It’s fair to say that the head professional at Harmony Landing, outside Louisville, is smiling from ear to ear today. Mike Thomas had a front-row seat as his son, Justin Thomas, rebounded from disappointment at Erin Hills’ U.S. Open in June, to win his first major championship on Sunday in North Carolina.

Facing the Green Mile of disaster over Quail Hollow’s closing holes, Thomas played them calmly at even par and closed out a 2-stroke win. Things got tense down that stretch, as third-round leader Kevin Kisner closed within a single shot of Thomas. Unfortunately for the South Carolina native, the closing triumvirate proved to be his undoing for the second consecutive day. He played them 3-over par and dropped to a tie for 7th at four-under.

The watery 17th hole makes the knees of common men shake in fear and uncertainty. Thomas stroked his iron to the center of the green, 15 feet from the hole. His aim was true, the ball used the entire circumference of the cup, and his lead was doubled. Thomas played the 18th conservatively, making bogey and finishing at 8-under. Ahead of him, Francesco Molinari, Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen finished at 6-under, in a tie for second spot.

Thomas began the final round bogey-birdie-bogey. He settled down, calmed his nerves, and made two more birdies, on 7 and 9, to finish the outward half at 1-under. He made birdie at the 10th, but truly joined the chase with a mighty chip-in for birdie on the par-four 13th. He had his share of breaks, including a sublime bounce off a tree to the middle of the fairway. As they say, when it’s your time, the breaks fall your way.

The most disappointed player in the field might have been Francesco Molinari. Despite a four-birdies-in-five-holes stretch on the back nine, Molinari had bogeys on the par-five 10th and the diabolical 16th. Those two miscues cost him a chance at the title. Reed came to 18 at 7-under, needing birdie to close the gap. His drive found a fairway bunker, and the opportunity was lost. Oosthuizen had the same type of up-and-down round as his compatriots. He made a few birdies (7 and 18), a spectacular eagle (15) and a trio of bogeys.

Ever since his amateur work at the University of Alabama and the USA Walker Cup side, great things have been predicted for Thomas. His four PGA Tour wins suggested that a major title was not far off, but his ability to close the deal at Erin Hills raised questions about his composure under the strain of major-championship pressure. Well, here’s to you, Justin Thomas, major champion, with much more to come.

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