With a PGA Club Pro father and grandfather who played on the PGA Tour, Justin Thomas was practically born into the golf world. It’s no surprise then that he’s killing the game today. At just 23 years old, Justin already boasts quite the record. He won hundreds of Junior and Amateur tournaments before committing to play college golf at the University of Alabama. In college, Justin continued his winning streak with six individual titles and helped Alabama win its first golf National Championship. After only two years at Alabama, Justin turned professional.
Since 2013, Justin has won on both the Web.Com Tour and the PGA Tour. He earned his first PGA Tour victory in 2015 at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, beating Adam Scott by just one stroke! Justin is currently in his second full season on the PGA Tour and is ranked 31st in the Official Golf World Rankings, 9th on the FedEx Cup list and already has over $6 million in career earnings.
While he’s already a successful professional athlete at such a young age, Justin Thomas still reflects the attitude and qualities of your everyday, down-to-earth young man. He likes to joke around with the guys, loves spending quality time with his friends and family, and already has a big AJGA Tournament (Justin Thomas Junior Championship) for the top junior golfers hosted in his home city of Louisville, KY. Perhaps to remind himself that his dreamlike victories are realities, Justin collects golf balls from all of his wins.
Although Justin is very levelheaded and believes there is always room for improvement, Justin is a “no excuses” type of player and constantly has his sights set on winning. He may have golf in his blood and be carrying out a professional legacy, but Justin is showing the world that he can hold his own out on the course. We spoke to Justin to get the inside scoop on his experience as a professional golfer, his training habits and his goals for the future.
Justin Thomas Golf
Justin Thomas Golf
Q: Would you say you had an advantage growing up with a father (PGA Master Professional and Head Pro at Harmony Landing) that has so much knowledge of the game?
Justin Thomas: Yes, it definitely was an advantage. I was around golf since I was born and had unlimited access to a golf course and range. My dad was a great teacher and helped me from a very young age. I was very lucky to have all of that as a kid.
Q: How do you set your goals? What smaller goals do you make in order to achieve the bigger ones such as making the Ryder Cup?
JT: I set yearly goals, monthly goals and weekly goals. Each year my goals get a little more aggressive. Every week that I tee it up in a PGA event, I want to go out and play my best golf and if I do that then I know I will have a great chance to win. In my rookie year on the PGA Tour, I wanted to win a PGA event. Luckily, I achieved my goal of winning. In year two, the Ryder Cup is obviously the main goal. I have a lot of other smaller goals but usually keep them to my team and myself so we can continue to work on achieving them.
Q: Do you have a personal mantra or saying that drives you forth while on tour? How do you keep from getting discouraged?
JT: My favorite quote is “No excuses, play like a champion,” which I really try to live by both on and off the course. Even though it is a quote from a funny movie (Wedding Crashers), I find it so true. It can be very easy to come up with a million excuses as to why you’re struggling and playing poorly during a round, but those excuses are what can lead to multiple poor rounds and then missed cuts. I really focus on playing shot by shot and, if I hit a bad shot or have a bad hole, I leave any excuses or discouraging thoughts behind me as I walk to the next tee.
Q: Golf is definitely a sport that requires a lot of concentration, what is your philosophy on discipline?
JT: Discipline is huge. I think I’ve learned over the past year that my strategy on the course changes based on the state of my game. When I’m not playing well, I can’t be as aggressive and attack the course like I can when I’m hitting it very well — that’s where patience and discipline really come into play.
Q: What was the best advice you received over the years from your favorite coach?
JT: My college golf coach, Jay Seawell, once told me to “act as my own caddie.” By that, he meant to talk to myself like I would to others if I was caddying for them. I would stay positive and try to keep them upbeat, just like I need to do to myself.
Q: What are 5 things you need to know about golf from a professional?
JT: Patience is key, manage your time on and off the course, getting into a good routine is important, don’t play scared, and your chipping and putting can never be too good.
Q: How did it feel when you achieved your first PGA tour win in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the CIMB Classic? How did you focus your concentration to conquer the obstacles confronted within that tournament? (By just one stroke over Adam Scott)
JT: Winning my first PGA Tour event was a dream come true. I was pretty relaxed during that final round. My game plan and my caddie, Jimmy, helped keep me stay relaxed as I came down the stretch. I was always confident that I could win on Tour, but guys can play their whole career and never win, it was a very special moment for me.
Q: Do you have any advice for those that are new to the golf game?
JT: To enjoy it, first and foremost, but to also always work on the fundamentals. Easy things such as setting up properly are so key in the game of golf. Also, working on your short game is essential.
Q: Who has been most influential on your career thus far?
JT: Definitely my father and my grandfather. Both have played a huge part in my development and appreciation of the game of golf. My father is still my teacher and mentor, and I always go to him whenever I need something.
Q: Where is your favorite course you have ever played?
JT: Royal County Down in Northern Ireland. It was such a scenic place and the course was spectacular, it tested all facets of my game.
Justin Thomas Golf
Justin Thomas Golf
Q: Professionally speaking, what do you hope to accomplish this year out of the tour?
JT: I would like to be on a winning Ryder Cup team.
Q: What would you personally consider the three most important fundamentals of being a successful athlete and golfer?
JT: Staying healthy and rested, surrounding yourself with a great team (coach, caddie, trainer, nutritionist, physio, etc.) and always work to improve.
Q: What does your pre-game ritual look like?
JT: It all depends on my tee time but I usually wake up and do some light stretching to get my muscles and joints going. If I play in the afternoon I may do a light work out. I get to the course roughly an hour and a half before my tee time and eat breakfast or lunch. While warming up, I putt for 15 to 20 minutes, chip for 10 to 15 minutes, hit balls for roughly 15 minutes, hit about five putts and then go to the tee.
Q: What is your advice for college athletes on how to create a good life balance?
JT: It can obviously be tough to find balance being on the road so much and playing every week but it is important to do things for yourself. Spending time with my friends and family is really important to me and helps keep me leveled. Even during tournament weeks I always try and make it a priority to take time for myself to relax and be with my close friends and family.
Q: Who do you find yourself looking up to professionally?
JT: I still look up to Tiger Woods. He’s been the reason I worked so hard as a young kid, watching him do things that were unheard of on the course. Now, being friends with him, I bounce questions off of him and try to get as much advice as possible.
Q: What do you most hope to accomplish in the upcoming tour?
JT: To start being in contention a lot more and winning more tournaments.
Q: Do you have a pregame playlist you wouldn’t mind sharing a few songs from?
JT: It’s mostly all hip-hop. I listen to a good variety, however, there’s a lot of Drake.
Q: How do you cope with games not turning out how you would have liked them to?
JT: I am a very competitive person so winning is what motivates me each week. I do get discouraged when I hit bad shots or have bad rounds but I am 23 years old and playing on the PGA Tour. I have to pinch myself sometimes because I know I am living my dream.
Q: What course have you not yet played on that you would like to?
JT: I’ve still never played Pine Valley and I hope to play there this Fall.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share about yourself that most people wouldn’t know?
JT: I’m a very laid-back person and love to have fun. I’m often joking around with the guys. I still try to be very serious on the course and while practicing, but while still remembering I’m 23 and need to have some fun during the week-to-week travels and grind.