Justin Thomas is coming off a rough PGA Tour season, one of his worst in recent memory if not his entire professional career.
Yet now that he’s made it onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team, thanks to one of Zach Johnson’s captain’s picks, Thomas isn’t too stressed headed into this week’s Fortinet Championship in Northern California.
“Now that I’ve been picked, I don’t have to prove anything,” Thomas said Wednesday in Napa, California. “It’s just more about I’m here to play well in a golf tournament and play well and try to give myself a chance and get into contention.
“I mean, I know when I don’t play competitively for two or three weeks I’m a little rusty competitively, so I’m sure after a month and a half it’s going to be a challenge to get back into it, but it’s something I’m excited for … I put enough pressure on myself already to try to play well, I don’t need to add to it to try to propel the season or play well for the Ryder Cup or anything.”
Thomas’ last win came at the 2022 PGA Championship. This past season on Tour, Thomas had just three top-10 finishes and just barely missed the cut for the FedExCup Playoffs. He missed the cut at three of the four major championships, too, and went a combined 41-over in those events. Twice he shot in the 80s at majors, too.
He ended last season at No. 26 in the Official World Golf Rankings — which, while still a respectable spot, was his worst ranking since 2016. He’s entering this week at No. 24.
Thomas, who has played in two previous Ryder Cups and holds a 6-2-1 record in the event, was one of Johnson’s captain’s picks for the event.
“When Zach called, it was a lot of emotions, but like a relief was almost the first thing, and excitement,” Thomas said. “It was a lot. I had a lot of sleepless nights and then at one point it just finally hit me. I had accepted the fact whatever was going to happen was going to happen, and I was OK with that. And I was going to be supportive regardless of what happened. I’m just very excited, fortunate, happy that it ended the way it did.”
Johnson and the rest of the United States team will head back to Rome later this month for the Ryder Cup, which they haven’t won on European soil since 1993. This week’s tournament, which is the start of the Tour’s fall swing before it returns to a calendar year schedule in January, is more of a warmup for Johnson and Max Homa — who are the only two team members in the field.
Thomas is trying to get back into the swing of things after making some changes to his game, which included parting with his longtime putting coach and trying to rely less on his father as his only swing coach. He said he’s trying to take ownership of his game again, and he doesn’t think his game is as bad as it’s looked at times throughout the year.
“I have a lot of belief in myself that I’m not as far off as I think,” Thomas said. “All it takes is one week, one stretch, one whatever you want to call it that could just completely flip everything, and nobody even talks or remembers it anymore.”