Justin Thomas endured 'brutal' wait for Ryder Cup call

Justin Thomas had never felt so helpless in his professional golf career.

Having failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs after watching a chip shot on his final hole lip out at the Wyndham Championship, he left his clubs on the floor of his garage for two weeks and didn't touch them.

Meanwhile, most of his competition for the captain's picks for United States Ryder Cup team were still competing. Each leg of the playoffs they qualified for presented another opportunity to impress captain Zach Johnson.

Thomas sat at home watching. And waiting.

"It was brutal," he said Wednesday ahead of this week's Fortinet Championship in Napa, Calif. "I literally couldn't do anything about it. Basically all the other picks besides Brooks (Koepka) had the playoffs to play in to where they could prove themselves a little bit more or solidify their spot a little bit more.

"And I just had to sit at home."

Thomas compared it to having an ex-girlfriend, and trying to have any excuse to contact Johnson. Eventually, he accepted that he had no control over what was going to happen.

Ultimately, Thomas' past experience -- and success -- in Ryder and Presidents Cups swayed Johnson to include Thomas on the United States team that will take on Europe in Rome in two weeks. Koepka also made the team despite now playing for LIV Golf.

"When Zach called, it was a lot of emotions, but like a relief was almost the first thing, and excitement," Thomas said. "It was a lot. I had a lot of sleepless nights. I'm just very excited, fortunate, happy that it ended the way that it did."

Thomas insisted he's not competing in Napa for the first time in four years in an effort to prove his worth on the U.S. team. He's already on the team.

What's he's not currently is eligible for next year's designated events that feature marquee fields and massive purses.

Those are reserved for those who finished in the top 50 of the FedEx Cup standings after the Tour Championship. The Fortinet is the first of seven fall events where those outside of the top 50 can continue to accumulate points. At the end, Nos. 51-60 will qualify for two designated events in 2024 -- the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and The Genesis Invitational.

Thomas is currently No. 71, thanks to that ill-fated chip on the 72nd hole of the Wyndham that left him lying on the ground in disbelief.

He has spent the past month practicing after parting with putting coach John Graham, part of an effort to "just dig it out of the dirt and take ownership and take accountability." That includes relying less on regular coaching input from his father.

Thomas is in Napa to knock off the competitive rust that has accumulated from the Wyndham and fine-tune his game. He has three consecutive top-10s at the Fortinet, including a T4 in his most recent start in 2019.

"I have a lot of belief in myself that I'm not as far off as I think," he said. "All it takes is one week, one stretch, one whatever you want to call it that could just completely flip everything and nobody even talks or remembers it anymore.

"I'm just going to go out here this week and just try to play as well as I can."

--Field Level Media

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