Sam Torrance: Justin Thomas weathered the storm to win US PGA Championship
Justin Thomas completed an incredible victory at the US PGA Championship on Sunday night, but the foundations were laid over the first two days at Southern Hills.
Thursday and Friday saw the kind of variation in weather that we are more used to seeing at the Open Championship, with four or five shots difference depending on whether you teed off in the morning or afternoon.
Thomas got the tougher draw yet still shot two rounds of 67 – scores which were almost beyond belief. He had to keep fighting over the following 48 hours to get into a play-off with Will Zalatoris, where he was sublime in clinching his second major title.
He showed similar skill in difficult conditions at The Players Championship earlier this year. In high winds, Thomas played the first two rounds in three under par – better than he managed when the weather settled down.
It bodes well for his prospects at this year’s 150th Open at St Andrew’s later this summer.
Thomas also looked to have his rhythm back and be playing freely at the US PGA Championship. In the days leading up to the tournament his dad helped him with a few simple drills that seemed to get him back into his best habits.
It’s five years since his best season, when Thomas won five titles including his maiden major at the US PGA. Quite a few players get stuck on one major, so this is a big step for a quality player and could open the floodgates.
Between them, he and fellow American Zalatoris played the best golf of the week in Oklahoma.
Zalatoris is a class act and already has five top-10 finishes at majors at the age of 25. He could and probably should win one.
He is certainly putting himself in contention and is another player who will like St Andrew’s, given that he likes to shape the ball.
What a story it would have been had Mito Pereira, playing only his second major at the US PGA, held onto the lead for one more hole.
The Chilean, who led by three overnight, made some great par saves around the turn and was still one ahead at the 18th tee, where Pereira’s challenge sank in the water.
I felt very sorry for him and it was a real shame that he didn’t make the play-off. But he showed a lot of class and demonstrated why so many people have been talking about how good he is.
England’s Matt Fitzpatrick will also be disappointed with how his week finished. He has improved in every department this year, this was his type of course and he was in contention almost until the end.
A tie for fourth is still a good week and this will be another learning curve for Fitzpatrick. A major is surely a matter of time.
Compatriot Tommy Fleetwood finished well to join him on three under par, one shot better off than Rory McIlroy who had a magnificent first round, OK second, horrid third and a fourth that promised much but fell flat. At least he has got his habit of making bad starts at majors off his back.
Overall the course was magnificent and the tournament delivered wonderful drama on the final day, capped by Thomas winning the three-hole play-off. Well done to the PGA of America.
Sam Torrance OBE is a former Ryder Cup-winning captain and one of Europe’s most successful golfers. Follow him @torrancesam