Ok. So I’ll admit Justin Thomas a superb talent and a great player, but don’t ask me to like him.
Seven wins (including a major) in less than 18 months. Almost 15 million dollars in on course earnings during that period, and a further 10 million for winning the Fed-Ex Cup. A rapid rise to within touching distance of the coveted top spot in the world rankings. Yes, it’s safe to say that Justin Thomas has got it going on.
Am I envious? Of course. But I’ve also been envious of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and the select few other golfers whose supreme talents have brought them excessive wealth and glory at such a young age. Envy is human nature, if not entirely desirable, and is something we’re all guilty of from time to time.
I bring Spieth and McIlroy into this as proof that envy and dislike are two completely different entities. I like Spieth and McIlroy, but there is something about Justin Thomas that I can’t quite take to.
Yes, there’s a tendency towards petulance at times, but he’s not alone there. Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods are some of the all-time greats who’ve let their frustrations boil over into club throwing and worse.
Brash? Most certainly. But far from an outlier in a game where twenty-somethings are an increasing percentage of the cohort.
Lucky? For sure. You only have to look at the recent Honda Classic where Thomas under hit his tee-shot on the par-3 fifth hole that required a long carry over water. Instead of a watery grave and a trip to the drop zone, Thomas’ ball bounced off the rock wall, careened into the air, and almost dropped for the most fortunate hole-in-one you’d ever see. Crucial? He won in a playoff. But doesn’t every champion rely on lady luck on occasion?
Hypersensitive? Possibly. Having a fan ejected for heckling in the same event last week may have seemed excessive, but simultaneously, is there anybody who believes that the fan wasn’t being an obnoxious asshole? Probably not.
Unrefined? Arguably. He’s been pictured at a fine restaurant wearing a t-shirt and baseball cap. Yet Tiger Woods is in the same picture dressed in shorts and for some reason I’m willing to let that slide.
Maybe it’s a combination of all the above, or maybe it’s me. I have been known to take instant dislikes and to valiantly stand by those. That Thomas is an outstanding player only makes him easier to root against. You can’t hate a journeyman.
My aversion to JT only made the WGC Mexico climax all the more satisfying. In my head, the finale played out almost like a pro wrestling script – Mickelson was the fan favourite, the hero, the guy who thrills the crowd and will never stoop to anything underhanded, whereas Thomas became the villain, the guy who takes cheap shots and plays fast, loose, and dirty.
This is hyperbole of course, but the contrast between good and evil make for storylines straight out of Hollywood. That is was Thomas’ who stood between Phil and his first win in almost five years made Lefty’s triumph all the sweeter.
The New York Yankees in baseball, The Dallas Cowboys in American Football, and Manchester United in soccer are all teams whose success has bought a wide fanbase, but little love from those outside. There are few things more enjoyable than to have a side to strongly root for, but having somebody to strongly root against is a close second.
Justin Thomas’ presence on the leaderboard makes Sundays a lot more interesting. Just don’t ask me to like him…