Justin Thomas. Jed Jacobsohn
After what Justin Thomas described on Wednesday as being a “brutal” couple months leading into the US Ryder Cup team being finalised, the two-time major must be sleeping easier sleep. So must Zach Johnson.
The American captain has faced plenty of questions about this particular personnel choice heading into the biennial event in Rome in a couple weeks. But his 12th man answered a lot of those during the first two rounds of the Fortinet Championship.
Following an opening 69, Thomas fired a second-round 67 to move to eight-under and into a share of sixth at the halfway stage. That included a pair of closing birdies that gave him a score more representative of how he hit the ball all day.
“Yeah, I played well, I played really solid, I drove the ball well, felt like I gave myself a lot of chances, felt like a lot of like 12- to 20-footers,” Thomas told reporters after his round. “It was nice to make those putts on the last two holes because I felt like I would have been a little for walking off for how I played. Again, that’s why I stay patient, just kind of stay in it and was able to have a nice — birdied those last two to salvage a good round.”
The 30-year-old Thomas is coming off the first PGA Tour season in which he didn’t qualify for the FedEx Cup, although this was also the first season the cutoff came at 70 instead of 125. The 15-time PGA Tour winner doesn’t have a victory since the 2022 PGA Championship and only has one top 10 since March. But after finishing as the post-season bubble boy, Thomas added the Fortinet Championship to his schedule as he tries to play — and practice — his way out of a year-long slump ahead of a third career Ryder Cup appearance. So far, so good.
Thomas was especially pleased with his play off the tee, which he attributed to a 10-minute afternoon range session on Thursday — as well as a new, longer driver he put in his bag three weeks ago.
“If I drive it like I did today,” Thomas said, “I’ll use it for the rest of my career.”
For now, Captain Johnson and the rest of the US team are just worried about how he wields the club in Rome at the end of the month.