US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson will be encouraged by what he saw from one of his wildcard picks at the weekend, with Justin Thomas’ fifth-place finish at the Fortinet Championship suggesting that the two-time Major winner is back to somewhere near his best.
Thomas endured a disappointing year on the PGA Tour in 2023, with the American sliding down the World Rankings and failing to make the FedEx Cup playoffs having finished 71st in the season-long standings.
Despite his struggles, Johnson showed how highly he rates the 30-year-old by naming him as one of his wildcards for biennial showdown that takes place at Marco Simone in Rome at the end of the month.
The big question ahead of the Fortinet Championship, the first tournament of the FedExCup Fall, was whether he felt he owed Johnson a performance in Napa to justify his place on the team.
“Now that I’ve been picked, I don’t have to prove anything,” a defiant Thomas said on the eve of the Fortinet Championship. However, you suspect he’ll be relieved, especially as he admitted the constant questioning around his form had become “annoying”.
Thomas spoke openly about his game and also confirmed a few changes that he has made, specifically around the working relationship with his father and coach, Mike, and how he’s beginning to take more ownership of his swing, something he had got away from.
Thomas said: “I am very lucky to have a team that’s very, very involved, but I just think for me personally, I had them there too often to where I became dependent on them and then I just lost all ownership, all accountability to where when things were going wrong. I was looking to them to answer the questions instead of I’m the one that needs to figure it out at some point.”
Thomas’ father remains his coach, although the two-time PGA Championship winner confirmed that he and John Graham, his putting coach, had parted company, a split that he said Graham understood.
Thomas was also keen to stress how his form was never as bad as some people had been making out, and the reason for his positive display in Napa was the result of several factors, one of which was a change in…