—Thursday afternoon in Hawaii there is a young man by the name of Justin Thomas 23-years old, Kentucky-bred, who is absolutely obliterating the course at Waialae Country Club on the island of Oahu.
Most have never heard of Thomas. For the most part he’s what you would expect from a guy who grew up in Louisville, KY and then played collegiately at Alabama where the golf team won back-to-back national championships. That is to say a little goofy off the course.
When I had a chance to see him play this summer at the BMW Championship, I wondered who was this kid with the mustache. And of course a few weeks later I realized the mustache was all part of the new Fratpack that has dominated the PGA Tour the last couple of years but no one quite knows what to make of it.
Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth have gotten enough attention, some might argue Spieth’s was the natural result begging for a young American to fill the spotlight left behind by an injured Tiger Woods. Johnson on the other hand, is dominant and helps that he is married to the daughter of perhaps one of the most famous athletes in human history Wayne Gretzky. But here’s Thomas a kid from Kentucky and I’m not so sure people are giving him his due.
Thursday he shot 59. That means drives, approaches, chips, putts they all totaled 59 across 18 holes while his nearest contemporary shot 64 this Thursday at the Sony Open.
Well here it is Friday night and Thomas just set the PGA Tour record for lowest score in an opening 36 with a 123 combined over rounds one and two at this week’s Sony Open. Thomas is now at 17-under after shooting 64 for his second round. He holds a five-shot lead over Gary Woodard.
The fact of the matter is Thomas is on fire. Last week he won the SBS Tournament of Champions in Maui.
Thomas is second in the FedEx Cup standings, the PGA Tour’s season-long points ranking, only rivaling another peer Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama who is 24-years of age.
One can look across both the PGA Tour rankings and the World Golf Rankings and see a plethora of young names.
Players who make a 27-year old Rory McIlroy look like an elder statesmen.
Jordan Spieth is 23 years of age.
Johnson is a bit over and has paid his dues so to speak at 32 years and dominant, having won his first major at the U.S. Open last year.
Patrick Reed who is ranked eighth in the world is 23.
Golf has not changed, its players have gotten more skilled. There is never going to be someone just exactly like Tiger Woods but there are enough dominant players in the game, that is not an issue.
Are they TV ready like Tiger, that is another subject. But there is no talent shortage in golf. Much like the period when Michael Jordan left the NBA, everyone is waiting for the next big thing. Well, a lot of next big things came along. Their names are Spieth, Johnson, Fowler, Rose, Thomas McIlroy and Day-to name a few.