Is anyone in the world having a better 2017 than Justin Thomas?
After ending the 2016-17 PGA Tour season with a Tour-best five victories, including his first major at the PGA Championship, as well as FedExCup Champion and Player of the Year honors, it's hard to believe that Thomas could possibly keep that momentum going.
But, here we are.
On Sunday -- in just his second event of the 2017-18 season -- Thomas collected his seventh career PGA Tour win, and sixth in 12 months, with a playoff triumph over Marc Leishman at the inaugural CJ Cup in South Korea.
The win propelled Thomas to the No. 3 ranking in the world, trailing Dustin Johnson (No. 1) and Jordan Spieth (No. 2). It's the first time since 2010 -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker -- that three Americans have occupied the top-3 spots in the Official World Golf Ranking.
But back to Thomas. How did he get this latest win?
Well, it all came down to an aggressive mentality and an ability to execute.
After Thomas and Leishman both parred the par-5 18th on the first hole of the playoff, the players teed it up on the same hole a second time.
Leishman found the water when he attempted to reach the green in two.
Thomas, meanwhile, was 243 yards out. In what was essentially a match-play situation, it wouldn't have been strange to see Thomas opt to lay up on his second shot instead of going for the green after watching Leishman hit his ball in the drink.
Instead, Thomas hit a perfect fairway wood just short of the green and got up and down for the win.
"He's an aggressive player," 2013 PGA National Teacher of the Year Lou Guzzi said. "I think your personality has a lot to do with the shots you're going to hit. Are you conservative? Are you aggressive like Phil Mickelson or Thomas? That plays into it. Getting an aggressive player to change is hard. You have to know yourself. Be prepared to hit the shot and Thomas was in that case. Look how good he's doing. The guy goes for it. I don't think he's worried about losing. If he loses he loses. It's cool to watch."
Guzzi said that what he liked most about the play from Thomas for that second shot in the playoff was his commitment to hitting it.
"Justin didn't allow what happened to Leishman to alter his game plan," Guzzi said. "He felt awfuly good about his swing. He was commited to what he wanted to do. Also with it being a par 5, a player like Leishman can still get uo and down for par after the drop. Thomas wanted to get close, get the birdie and shut this thing off and win agrresssively. He felt very, very good over second shot and made his birdie. I think more and more, with the players of today, they're going to stick to their game plan. They're trained that way and they commit to the shot."
So how do you hit a 3-wood like Thomas did on Sunday?
For starterss, Guzzi said, pick the club you feel most comfortable with between a 7-iron and a pitching wedge. Take practice swings with that club before jumping up to the 3 wood.
"For me," Guzzi said, "I'm most comfortable with my 9-iron. Therefore, I want every club to feel the same as it does with my 9-iron swing. The tendency when you put a 3-wood in your hand is to sweep the ball or try to swing up. That's wrong. Just like with a 9-iron, you want to hit the ball and take a little turf after contact. You want to make contact with a 3-wood at that ball the same as you would with an iron."
When you try to help the ball up with a 3-wood, Guzzi explained, well, you're probably just going to top it.
"It's the hardest club in the bag to hit off the ground," he said. "Hit that club your most comfortable with, then take the 3-wood out and take the same swing. You'll get a good visual for how your 3-wood travels in the air. Understand that trajectory based on your swing speed and you can commit to the shot. A 3-wood isn't designed to go real high."
In the case of Thomas, it was a stock shot.
"If it's a stock shot -- like this was for JT -- approach it as such," Guzzi said. "Don't allow your opponent or playing partner's situation to dictate your game plan. Just step up and hit the normal stock shot that you know is going to get you there."
During the CJ Cup, there was another incredible Thomas moment we had to ask Guzzi about.
In the second round, Thomas made one of the coolest pars you'll ever see at the par-4 fifth hole.
Within 5 feet of the hole for par, Thomas noticed there was a spike mark in front of his golf ball -- something he was not allowed to fix before playing his stroke. The spike mark was such a concern that rather than putt, Thomas took a wedge out of the bag and -- with a putting stroke -- expertly popped his ball over the spike mark and into the hole to save the par.
You can see it here:
The shot even left Guzzi impressed, if not stunned.
"I don't know if they even practice something like that," he said. "Tour players can still wear hard spikes at some places. When I played, we all wore metal spikes and dealt with spike marks all the time. I did not practice, or try to hit anything but a putter on the green. You took your medicine. You just dealt with it and you sometimes could not make a putt from 4-5 feet.
"What Justin did -- that's so cool," Guzzi added. "You haven't seen something like that in ages on Tour. He took a chance and tried it, or something maybe it was something fun he's practiced and wanted to try."
If you're an average player, however, Guzzi says don't even waste your time practicing a shot like that.
"It's a once in a blue moon kind of thing and it wouldn't be worth the time," he said. "My best advice would be that it's a really cool shot to watch -- but make sure you're just watching it. Having the nerves to hit a shot like that, or even being in a spot where that shot would be an option is pretty much zero. Instead, just keep working on that putting stroke."
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