What slumping Justin Thomas is working on with Ryder Cup looming

justin thomas works on the range

Justin Thomas is busy grinding on his game ahead of the Ryder Cup.

@JustinThomas34 / IG

Although Justin Thomas hasn’t been his best in 2023, he still has one last chance at redemption. With his spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team officially secure, Thomas can erase all the negatives from a forgettable year with a vintage performance in the biennial team competition.

Based on JT’s form over the past 12 months, many U.S. fans aren’t holding their breath. Thomas has just two top 10s since last September, and hasn’t had a win in 15 months. Although he’s one of the top talents of the current generation, his Ryder Cup selection raised plenty of eyebrows.

Thomas is intent on quieting the doubters. In the lead up to his third Ryder Cup appearance, the 15-time Tour winner is busy grinding on his game as he gets ready to embark for Italy. And, according to Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis, Thomas is largely going about finding a fix alone. While Thomas’ father, Mike, is still his primary swing coach, the two have not been working as closely together over the last couple months, Lewis reports. Instead, Thomas is busy digging in the dirt trying to find the solution.

But what exactly is he working on? We break it all down below.

Pool noodle drill

At first glance, Thomas’ video on the range with pool noodles and alignment sticks is a bit concerning. To the untrained eye, all the contraptions scream desperation. The scene evokes images of Roy McAvoy in his trailer searching for a swing fix.

On closer inspection, however, the pool noodles and alignment sticks aren’t all that complex. Their only purpose is to create barriers (think bumpers on a bowling lane) for Thomas to swing through. If he gets the club too far behind him, his shaft will hit one set of bumpers, while if his swing gets too far outside, he’ll hit the other set.

It might looks like Thomas is reinventing the wheel with all these training aids, but in reality he’s just trying to keep his swing plane inside his desired parameters.

Gate drill

justin thomas practices putting
@JustinThomas34 / IG

Another interesting note from Lewis is that Thomas recently split with his putting coach, John Graham, as he looks to rediscover his game. And from the videos above, he doesn’t look to be getting too complex as he searches for the correct solution. He’s employing the gate drill to reinforce proper putting feels. He places two tees a putterhead length apart, creating a channel for his clubhead to swing through. It’s a drill that you’ll see many pros working on when they’re on the practice green. If Thomas’ putterhead nicks a tee, he’ll know his stroke is off line. Coupled with the chalk line on the ground in front of him, Thomas has all the tools he needs to make sure he’s hitting the ball consistently and on the intended line.

Feel vs. real

Implementing proper swing thoughts can sometimes require a bit of exaggeration. When your body is so used to swinging a certain way, you often need to feel like you’re overcorrecting to get into the correct positions. This phenomenon is referred to as “feel vs. real.” In Thomas’ second video from the post above, you can see him working on drilling his feel vs. real.

As Thomas has explained before, with longer clubs he has a tendency to get across the line at the top, causing a left miss. To counteract this, he’ll often try to feel like he’s getting extremely laid off as he gets to the end of his backswing. You can see in the video how much he exaggerates this move before making his swing. But once he actually hits the ball, the move is nowhere near as severe as what he rehearsed — hence the feel-vs.-real label.

All Thomas is doing with this rehearsal is feeling an overcorrection to his typical miss. With his body so used to swinging one way, the exaggerated feel helps him find a happy medium during the swing to get in just the right positions.

Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.