Funny thing about golf, you just never know. Justin Thomas had the talent and upbringing to be a factor on the PGA Tour and with three wins and eight Top 10 finishes in 20 events, at just 24 years old, he needed to add the element of steadiness. Why he was not a great pick for this major in spite of decent +4400 odds, was the six missed cuts since February in 13 events, after winning twice in January.
In particular, what was going on between his ears with a final round 75 at the U.S. Open, after being the third round leader? He carried that around like extra baggage on flights to his next three tournaments and never played on the weekends.
After an opening round 73 at the PGA Championship, Thomas collected himself and did not dwell on what could have been, and focused on the next day and closed with rounds of 66, 69 and 68 to win his first major. Veteran caddy Jimmy Johnson, who is now on Thomas' bag, offered this prospective afterwards. "I think what he learned is that he has to play his game and not force it,'' said Johnson, whose been with Thomas full time for two years ago. "Let the course come to him and play a little smarter."
While it was anticipated the leaderboard would be bursting with the best players in the sport, that was not the case at Quail Hollow as Francesco Molinari (+12,500), Patrick Reed (+10,000) and Louis Oosthuizen (+10,000) were all two strokes back. Bridesmaid Ricky Fowler (+1400) was tied for fifth after final round 67, along with Hideki Matsuyama (+1200), who played more ordinary than expected, with three rounds in the 70's, which surrounded a hot 64 on Friday.
My top finisher was Brooks Koepka, who was tied for 13th at Even par. Here you can see the rest of my selections at my 2017 PGA Championship Betting Preview and Prediction.
Fairways Thoughts on Others in the Field
Rory McIlroy was the tourney favorite at +600 (and my top choice) and he revealed afterwards he's battling back spasms and does not know when he will play again in 2017. (Wish I had known that before) He finished nine shots off the pace.
Others who figured to contend were Jordan Spieth (+900), Dustin Johnson (+1200) and John Rahm (+2200), and not one of this trio was among those 12 golfers that finished under par at Quail Hollow.
One player you had to feel for was third round leader Kevin Kisner. At opening odds of +10,000, the 33-year old pro went 67, 67 and kept it together on Saturday with a 72. On Sunday, the pressure kicked in and Kisner shot 74 playing in the last group. As golfer's, we know the feeling of anticipating a great round and floundering, which is hard to accept, just ask the new PGA Championship winner.
With Thomas's victory, that adds to the spectrum of possible rivalry with Spieth, who are both the same age (24) and friends. With these two and others their age, this might be what the sport needs since Tiger and Phil are no longer relevant.
This week on the Tour, we stay in North Carolina and head over to Greensboro for the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club. Look for our betting preview beginning Tuesday.