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JT wins again and says goodbye

24 OCT 2017

By Dave Kaplan

After winning the inaugural CJ Cup in South Korea this past weekend and moving to third overall in the Official World Golf Rankings, Justin Thomas announced that he will be shutting down his game for the remainder of 2017. And the rest of the tour could not be more thrilled to see him leave because Thomas has been scorching hot the last 12 months.

During that time span, the 24-year-old won his first major, his first FedEx Cup, his first Player of the Year award, and a total of six events on the PGA Tour. He also shot nine rounds of 64 or lower on the PGA Tour, including an earth-shattering 59 at the Sony Open in January where he went on to win by seven strokes!

The young gun’s statistics over the last 12 months have been equally impressive. This past season, he ranked first amongst his colleagues in putting average, driving efficiency, approaches from 50-125 yards, birdie or better conversion percentage, and final round scoring performance. Not surprisingly, he also led the tour in earnings, banking a total of $19,921,560 (including the FedEx Cup payout).

Dustin Johnson may be the top-ranked player in the world, but nobody is more dangerous at the moment with a golf club in his hands than JT. And that goes double for PGA Tour events that are played in Asia, where Thomas has now won three times in the last three years.

(In fact, he has had so much success during this portion of the wraparound season over his career that we might have to start referring to it in the future as the “annual Justin Thomas swing!”)

Thomas was the outright favourite heading into the CJ Cup this past weekend and he definitely did not disappoint the throngs of Korean spectators who came out to the Nine Bridges course to watch him play.

On Thursday, it seemed like he was going to run away with the tournament after making two eagles and four birdies over his final seven holes to shoot a 9-under

However, the winds intensified on Jeju Island on Friday and the remainder of the week was not nearly as much of a cakewalk for Thomas. He followed up his 63 with a 2-over 74 on Friday to fall two shots back of the lead, ground his way back into a share of the lead on Moving Day, and then ended up squaring off against a recently resurgent Marc Leishman in a playoff on Sunday to decide the tournament.

And although Thomas persevered on the second playoff hole after hitting this brilliant shot into the green from 243 yards, it seemed like he was running on fumes down the stretch.

So, it was not really much of a surprise to hear Thomas tell reporters after the playoff that he would be taking the rest of the year off to rest.

“I am so excited to not do anything,” Thomas said. “I officially have nothing left in the tank.”

That is, of course, completely understandable.

As young and spry as the young man may be, he has played in a total of 27 PGA Tour events since the Safeway Open last year and contended in more than half of those tournaments. That’s a hefty amount of golf for anybody and the last thing that golf fans want to see is one of the preeminent talents in the game burning out this early in his career!

Yes, it is unfortunate that we won’t get to see him compete against the rest of the elite field at the WGC-HSBC Champions this week in Shanghai. However, we will get to watch DJ, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, and Phil Mickelson all vie for the year’s first WGC title and that is a good enough consolation prize for me!

Dave Kaplan is a Toronto-based freelance writer and golf fanatic who is sneaky long off the tee. He’s on a crusade to inject a youthful perspective into golf media, especially the broadcast booth. Follow him on Twitter @davykap