There has been no shortage of recently turned professionals making the grade on golf’s top tours in recent years but predicting who’s going to make it is tougher than you might think.
The likes of Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa wasted little time before making their mark on the PGA Tour after stellar collegiate careers but two-time Major winner Thomas insists there’s no guarantees that a glittering amateur record will translate to a successful career amongst the pros.
“It’s extremely difficult, I just don’t think there’s such a thing anymore,” Thomas said when asked if he could identify a college kid destined to make it.
“I think you just look at the paths that people take. I was looking at the Palmer Cup team last week, and it’s absolutely no offense, and he knows this, to Trey Mullinax whatsoever, but if you were to put Cory Whitsett, Bobby Wyatt and Trey Mullinax in a hat and say which one of these three in order is going to be the most successful, you would have said Cory and Bobby ahead of Trey just because of how good they were.
“Like Trey was really good, but they were that good, and they haven’t played professional golf in a couple years, Cory and Bobby, and Trey is now a winner on Tour.
“They were some of those guys, you know, it wasn’t just a how are they going to win on Tour, it was how many times are they going to win on Tour and how long are they going to play.
“You look at Jordan [Spieth], obviously his path worked out well, but he missed Q-school. There’s so many guys I can think of, I don’t need to do that, but it’s just guys that you see are can’t-miss, they’re unbelievable, they win everything in junior golf, amateur golf, college golf, No. 1 amateur in the world, whatever, and they’re just struggling to find a way.
“I think you could argue that’s a little bit of the problem, that they can’t necessarily get out here right away, but it’s just, man, golf is a tough sport. That’s just the way that it is, I think.”
Thomas certainly didn’t have everything go his way in the beginning. A son of a PGA pro whose father was a touring pro before him, Thomas won the Haskin’s Award as America’s top golfer as a freshman at Alabama in 2012.
He would go to Q-School a year later, earning a Web.com (now Korn Ferry) tour card before winning his first professional title a year after that at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. In 2015, he won his first PGA Tour title with a one-stroke victory over Adam Scott and the now world number 7 is convinced that having to earn his way to the top has played a huge role in the player he has become today.
“I think that was the best thing that happened to me is having to go through the process I did. I had to earn it,” Thomas said.
“Everyone knows when they sign up for professional golf what they’re getting into. They know you have to go earn what’s yours and if you don’t play well you’re not going to get compensated that well.
“You have to go through Q-school to get to at that time what’s now the Korn Ferry Tour and you have to play well here on the Korn Ferry.
“I would have loved to be out on the PGA Tour right away, but I don’t think maturity-wise and probably everything else-wise I was ready.
“I probably could have kept my card and would have been okay, but I don’t know if I necessarily would have been the player I am today without going through more and learning about myself and just putting myself through the wringer.”