Two-time major winner Justin Thomas feels that Major Championship success will continue to be the yardstick with which golfers on all tours are judged, including those who’ve been generating headlines for their decision to make the switch to LIV Golf.
Speaking to the press on Tuesday at Pebble Beach where he’s set to tee it up in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am – the first of the PGA Tour’s new-look, no-cut ‘Signature Events’ – the world number 26 was addressing Tyrrell Hatton’s decision to move to LIV where he’ll debut this weekend on Jon Rahm’s Legion XIII team having officially been announced yesterday evening.
“I think that the storylines in my opinion will continue to be if those guys play well in major championships and win major championships. I think that’s more of a storyline I would think than they could create on that tour,” he said.
This came on the back of a question about what he expected from LIV in the coming year and whether, with LIV’s roster now seemingly set, the ‘will they/won’t they?’ locker room talk would continue throughout the season.
“Yeah, at least from what, you know, what Greg [Norman] said, they haven’t gotten anything close to what he’s kind of said. It sounded like they were going to sign 10 or 15 people this however many months and haven’t.
“I don’t know. I’m not just saying this. I don’t really know enough about what’s going on to even kind of give a storyline. I think at the end of the day the guys that are out there that are still if you want to call it kind of in their prime or can still play their best golf, I would say that their priorities are still set on the majors versus their season out there.”
One player who is very much focused on the PGA Tour and is set to make his professional debut this week is Nick Dunlap who became the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event since Phil Mickelson back in 1991. Thomas played alongside Dunlap in the final group at the American Express Championship a fortnight ago and is also a former University of Alabama star, and Thomas was asked what advice he might give the burgeoning star.
“Well, Nick is very fortunate where his first year on Tour is monumentally different than I think everybody’s first year on Tour out right now,” Thomas explained.
“We happened to be at dinner at the same place last night, Sam Reeves had some people over and Nick was there and he looked tired. He was like, ‘man, I’m so tired.’ ‘I was like, dude, I don’t really care, you should be sleeping right now getting ready to go to class tomorrow morning and I’m pretty sure all of your teammates would happily switch with you, so be careful who you say that to.’ I was needling him, giving him a hard time.
“I think for him, and I’ve told him this, I talked to him a little bit last week, just remember who
he is and stay true to that. I think it’s very easy for any rookie, doesn’t matter if they’re 20, 30
or 40, when you have access to the equipment trucks, when you have access to all these
coaches, trainers, caddies, like whatever it is, it’s easy to want to tinker and want to change.”
Thomas then revealed that Hudson Swafford had given him a little advice during his own rookie season back in 2014 and it’s something that he’s regularly passed on to rookies in the years following.
“It was in Sea Island,” he recalled, “it was 2014, it was like my third or fourth tournament in whatever, my rookie season and I had gone MC, MC, MDF and I had one whole FedExCup point through three events.
“It was Saturday night and like we were just at a bar there. I wasn’t playing on Sunday and I think he had missed the cut. We were kind of having some drinks, a group of us, and he was like, ‘I don’t really know what you’re celebrating for, I don’t know what a lot of you rookies are having fun for. You think you have your Tour card?’ He’s like, ‘you don’t. Rookies do not have a Tour card. You do, but you don’t have the ability to choose where you’re playing, you’re not in all the tournaments.’ He’s like, everybody comes out here their first year and I think they are so excited to finally have a PGA Tour card and they feel like they’re on top of the world when in reality you haven’t earned that until you have it after that first year.
“I don’t know why that just resonated with me that I pretty much needed to start working harder and go out and earn it. I can always thank Hud for that.”