Justin Thomas watches his tee shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the 2017 CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.
By Joel Beall
The golf world has not been kind to J.B. Holmes for “icing” Alex Noren on the final hole Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open. That’s included fire from his fellow pros. On Wednesday, someone came to Holmes’ defense: the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year.
“I have J.B.’s back all day on that situation,” Justin Thomas told the media at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. “If you put me in 18 fairway, and I need an eagle to win the golf tournament or to have a chance to win the golf tournament, I mean, I knew the exact position he was in, and I would do the same thing.”
Needing an eagle to tie the clubhouse lead, Holmes was criticised for taking more than four minutes to hit his second shot into the par-5 18th. That he ultimately decided to lay up only amplified the noise. (Holmes later said he felt he had a better chance at making 3 by holing out a wedge rather than attempting to keep a fairway wood on the firm green.)
“If you put me in 18 fairway and I need an eagle to win the golf tournament or to have a chance to win the golf tournament, I mean I knew the exact position he was in, and I would do the same thing,” Thomas continued. “If I have a 5-wood in my hands—and he hits it pretty similar trajectory to me—that thing’s going to go high. And into the wind, he’s into about a 10- to 15-mph wind, that wind gusts at all, like it was, when he was waiting for the gusts to go down, that ball’s in the water. Three-wood, as long as he hits it, has no chance. You saw where [Alex] Noren hit it, and J.B.’s probably longer than Noren, so and then he’s got no chance.
“So he’s debating what to do, what to not do. I get it, 4 minutes, 10 seconds is a long time, but nobody behind him, last hole, you need a 3 to win the golf tournament, you need to take as long as you can.”
Though Thomas did mention slow play is a problem on tour—one the players need to discuss—to place the final group’s six-hour round on the foot of Holmes is unfair.
“It was a bummer. I hate it for him, how much he’s getting bashed and ridiculed,” Thomas said. “When you’re trying to win a golf tournament, this sport is very much about committing and being a 100 percent being all in on what you’re doing. I honestly applaud him for waiting and making the decision until he was ready, because he was just trying to win the tournament.”
Holmes is in this week’s WMPO field, a tournament he’s won twice in his career.