Sam Torrance: Jordan Spieth friendship spurred Justin Thomas on to first Major

Sam Torrance
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PGA Championship - Final Round
Justin Thomas admitted to being of friend Spieth's Major wins – but now he has one too (Source: Getty)

Justin Thomas looked like he had made a costly error at the 16th hole of his final round at the US PGA Championship.

A huge drive, then a five iron, only to completely duff it into a bunker well short of the green. Suddenly, you thought the battle was far from over.

But having saved par, he conjured an exceptional tee shot at 17. It set him up to become one of only five players to birdie the hole on Sunday.

And none were more important than this one, which gave Thomas a three-shot cushion going up 18 in search of his first Major.

The 17th wasn’t the only highlight: his chip in for a birdie at 13 was also magnificent. You really need to know what you are doing to to execute that under pressure.

At one point on a very exciting back nine five players shared the lead, but then Thomas stepped away.

Thomas already had great pedigree. The son of a former professional had won three times on the PGA Tour this season before making making it four, including a Major, aged 24. Only Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth had done that before.

His close friendship with Spieth has helped to push him on. Thomas is obviously exceptional and knows deep down that he’s as good as three-time Major-winner Spieth any day of the week.

He says he was jealous of what his best mate had achieved but never let it get out of control and believed that his day would come. On Sunday it did.

Sony Open In Hawaii - Round One
Thomas (right) has had to watch best friend Spieth rack up three Majors (Source: Getty)

Thomas threatened to break his Major duck earlier this summer at the US Open, surging into contention with a tournament record third round of 63.

He faded with a closing 75 but every little journey helps and all that experience came to the fore when it mattered this time.

I’ve admired Thomas for a few years now. While Spieth is an excellent putter, Thomas seems to be strong in every department.

He has more of a classic swing than Spieth, is an immensely long hitter and a great player with iron, wedge and putter.

He’s not the only man to have has a breakthrough year. Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama have had brilliant runs, while Sergio Garcia and Brooks Koepka also won their first Majors and Spieth rediscovered his best at the Open. In fact, we have had four great Major winners this season.

Fellow American Kevin Kisner, led on Thursday, Friday and Saturday but finished four shots behind Thomas. Kisner played beautifully all week and you couldn’t fault him but just didn’t have enough length off the tee.

I also have to mention an incredible performance from English youngster Jordan Smith, who finished tied for ninth in his first Major.

PGA Championship - Round Three
Englishman Jordan Smith finished ninth on his Major debut (Source: Getty)

The 24-year-old was playing on the EuroPro Tour two years ago but earned successive promotions and won his maiden European Tour title last month.

He has now secured a place at next year’s US PGA, although I doubt he’d have had to worry about that as he’ll be in the world top 50 shortly.

There was also a great finish from Francesco Molinari to tie for second place, but all light must shine on Thomas. At 24, he has got his Major duck out of the way very early in his career and I’ve no doubt he is going to go on to much greater things.

He’s another asset for the United States in the Ryder Cup next year and, with the likes of Spieth, Koepka and Patrick Reed, they have a wealth of talent ready to take up the mantle from the Phil Mickelsons and Tiger Woods.

Europe, meanwhile, has its own exciting youngsters in Rahm and Smith, so both teams are coming together nicely.

Read more: Sam Torrance: Open win has reignited Spieth-McIlroy rivalry

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