In-form champion in search of hat-trick
Thomas will be chasing a third straight victory at the CIMB Classic
AFTER winning his first PGA Tour title at the 2015 CIMB Classic, Justin Thomas’ career has skyrocketed.
Following his career breakthrough in Malaysia at the CIMB Classic 2015, the 24-year-old American has won five more tournaments, including a maiden Major title at the PGA Championship last month.
Thomas also shot the magical 59 in Hawaii earlier this year and joined an exclusive club of players under-25 that includes Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth to win five or more times during a season. Not surprisingly he’s risen to world No. 4.
The following are excerpts of an interview with Thomas, who will return to Kuala Lumpur next month in search of a third straight title on the PGA Tour.
How much of last year’s CIMB Classic do you recall?
It was awesome. It was obviously special being able to go back to defend last year. Having won my first PGA Tour title in Malaysia, it’s got a special place in my heart. To go back-to-back last year was awesome. It definitely got my 2016-17 season off to a good start.
What is it about TPC Kuala Lumpur that seems to fit your game?
I somehow have a comforting feeling out there and I seem to do all right. The scores are really low over there. There’s not very much wind and I think why I played so well over there is because I have a lot of wedges and I feel that my wedge game is good. That’s why I’m able to make so many birdies because I can roughly get a few kick-ins per day and it just seems
to be a place where I play well. How important is it for young players on the PGA Tour to come out and take up these playing opportunities?
I think if you have the opportunity, you can take advantage of it. I don’t think any young guys are turning down opportunities to play. It’s just the fact of being able to qualify for the tournaments and being able to play in them. If they can, they all will play. It’s pretty unbelievable where this game takes us.
Why has Malaysia been such a good fit for you, and what would it mean to you to think that you could win it three times in a row?
It’s great. I think the big thing is, it’s a lot of wedges and I feel that I have a really good wedge game. And the greens don’t spin a lot, so the ball kind of ... it’s going to stay around where it lands.
I feel that what I need to get better at is spin control. I’m so envious of how Strick (Steve Stricker) hits his wedges. As soon as they land, they will roll a couple inches and sometimes they will spin back. It’s always in kind of a two-foot radius of his ball. For me, sometimes I’ll hit one and it will kind of rip back or whatever but there (at TPC Kuala Lumpur), the ball just seems to, I don’t know, whether it’s the grass or what, but it kind of stays around where it lands. I feel like I’m going to hit my number within a couple of yards, about every time. I seem to putt pretty well over there too.
Will it have special meaning if you can win it three times at the CIMB Classic and is it something you look back on, that first win?
Yeah, and the way I did it is even more special. It’s something I always look back on -- it’s something I looked back on in the PGA (Championship) and something I looked back on in Hawaii. I’ll always be able to trace back to that first win (at the CIMB Classic in 2015) because I had so many different things happen that day, between getting off to a slow start and then kind of having a hot couple of holes in the middle of the round and then dumping it in the water on 14 and then birdieing 15, 16, 17. I feel like I had it all happen. I feel like I have been able to, and I will be able to continue to use that round to my benefit.
Thomas has won five times this season and is in excellent form at the moment.