No doubting Thomas after fearless 59
Staring over the top of a bunker on his final hole, the prudent play for Justin Thomas might have been to make sure he got out of the sand and avoided a big number.
But Thomas didn’t care about a big number. It was about golf ’s magic number.
“This isn’t a time for me to lay it up,” Thomas said on Thursday at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
He hit a 5-iron so clean and so high that it carried 207 yards into a light Pacific breeze to 15 feet on the par-5 ninth hole at Waialae Country Club. Thomas poured in the eagle putt for an 11-under 59, becoming the seventh player to post a sub-60 round in PGA Tour history.
For a brief moment, he reacted as if it were little more than the perfect finish to a great opening round. He stretched out his putter that was still in his left hand, smiled and punched the air with his right fist. Only when he looked over at Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger, the two witnesses to a 59 that Thomas made look easy, did the sense of history start to hit him.
Berger thrust his arm in the air. Spieth, his best friend in golf since they were 13, crouched as the ball neared the cup and delivered a left-handed fist-pump as both raced over to congratulate him.
“I think I got more excited from seeing them get excited than I did my putt going in,” Thomas said.
“I thought about it going up to the green. I’m like, ‘If I make it, what am I going to do?’ It’s not like winning a tournament. You have three days left to try to play well. So I didn’t really know how to react. I never had a putt on the last hole on a Thursday mean that much.”
It was different from the feeling he had four days ago when he won the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. That was his third victory on the PGA Tour, and the 23-year-old Thomas is sure to win more.
“I don’t have many chances to shoot 59,” he said.
Jim Furyk was the last player with a sub-60 round when he closed with a record 58 at the Travelers Championship last summer. Furyk also had a 59 in 2013 at the BMW Championship, joining the exclusive group that includes Al Geiberger (1977 Memphis Classic), Chip Beck (1991 Las Vegas Invitational), David Duval (1999 Bob Hope Classic), Paul Goydos (2010 John Deere Classic) and Stuart Appleby (2010 Greenbrier Classic).
This was special because Thomas made it look so easy.
He began by pitching in for eagle from 35 yards. Thomas never hit more than a 7-iron into the par 4s at Waialae on a perfect day for scoring — very little breeze, fast fairways and soft greens. That 7-iron was chipped under the trees and into a bunker on No 8 when he was trying to save par.
His only bogey came on his second hole, the par-3 11th, when his tee shot went into a bunker and he missed an 18-foot par putt.
Duval was the only other player to shoot 59 with an eagle on the last hole. Furyk at Conway Farms is the only other player to shoot 59 with a bogey.
Spieth was more nervous than Thomas and far more demonstrative. Thomas had a 30-foot birdie putt on the seventh that looked good until burning the edge. Spieth clutched the back of his neck and was still asking how the putt didn’t fall when he walked onto the next tee.
Justin Thomas (left) is congratulated by Jordan Spieth after chipping in for eagle on the 10th hole during the first round of the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club on Thursday in Honolulu, Hawaii.