Why Justin Thomas was the biggest star at Payne’s Valley

Justin Thomas Rory McIlroy

Justin Thomas ribs Rory McIlroy after a missed putt during the Payne's Valley Cup.

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Tiger Woods has won 15 major championships, the second most in the history of golf. He’s won 82 PGA Tour events, tied for the most. His golf ball can be marked most any which way he so pleases. He’s earned it. On Tuesday, at the Payne’s Valley Cup celebrating his first public-course opening, Woods’ ball had his name on it. 

His playing partner crouched over the ball while lining up a putt. He was next to hit in the alternate-shot portion of the event. He picked the ball up and rotated it through his fingers.

Wuuut, thought Justin Thomas

“Man, I went to go move this over like normal, and I forgot dumb-dumb’s got his name on the ball,” Thomas said while mic’d up. 

“I can’t, I can’t look at that while I’m trying to putt.”

The Cup christened Woods’ course, and it raised money for charity. It was a made-for-TV event. Thomas was, too. Here are nine more hilarious ways he was the real star.   

‘You hate to see that’ 

Rory McIlroy, who teamed with Justin Rose to face Thomas and Woods, had a series of near-misses on the green on the back nine. One was a lipped-out putt. Thomas moved in before the ball even stopped.  

“You hate to see that,” Thomas said slowly and sarcastically as he patted McIlroy on the left shoulder twice with his left hand. 

“There’s a lot of four word …” McIlroy began to say. 

“You hate to see that,” Thomas said again, more slowly. 

“… four-letter words that I could use right now,” McIlroy continued. 

Thomas picked up the ball – McIlroy didn’t have to finish – and handed it to his opponent.

“Here you go. Good try,” he said. 

Thomas even offered words of encouragement. 

“Say it,” Thomas said of swearing. “There’s a delay. Say it.”

“You’ll feel a lot better if you say it,” Woods added. 

‘Good talk’

Thomas called out to Woods for help on a pitch shot. Woods didn’t answer. 

“I got a little tweener,” Thomas said. “What do you think, pards – fly it up there, or bump it?” 

Crickets. Woods was talking with McIlroy. 

“Sweet. Good talk. Thanks,” Thomas continued. 

Thomas hit it to within about 2 feet. When it skidded to a stop, he made a skidding noise.   

“You didn’t hear me back there?” Thomas said to Woods afterward. 

“I can’t hear anything,” Woods said. Each player was wearing earbuds to hear the Golf Channel announcers. 

“And I look over, ‘OK, sweet, I guess I’ll just figure it out,’” Thomas replied.  

LEFT

Rose hooked his tee shot left on the 3rd hole. Left of left. 

As the ball started to come down in the distance, Thomas took one step into the tee box and pointed both arms left, as if he were signaling a first down. 

“That’s got to be 150 yards off line,” Thomas said.   

Racoons and Tiger, oh my 

All four players were walking to a shot when they began discussing their rooms. 

“There were two rooms, and one of the rooms had a huge raccoon just staring down,” Thomas said. “I’m like, I’m not sleeping in this room. I’d wake up in the middle of the night terrified.”

Rose said his room was “worse.” 

“It had pictures of Tiger above my bed,” he said.  

“That would give me worse nightmare, for sure,” Thomas said.  

‘Getcha some of that’

Thomas ripped a drive. Then he ribbed McIlroy. 

As Thomas’ ball flew forward, a fan said, “Getcha some of that, Rory.”

“Let’s go,” Thomas said. “Getcha some of that. I didn’t even have to say anything.” 

McIlroy smiled. Then ripped one farther. 

“I knew that was going to happen, too,” Thomas said. 

“Yup, don’t poke the bear,” McIlroy said.  

“I know,” Thomas said.  

‘You’re that guy’

McIlroy opted to pitch a shot on one of the greens. On one of the brand-new greens. 

“You’re that guy,” Thomas said. “You’re going to be the guy. We got four people out here. You’re going to take a dang divot out here,” Thomas said.  

McIlroy hit it to within about a foot. 

“That’s well done,” Thomas said. 

Good talk II

Thomas drove one of the greens. It then trickled off the back and down a slope. 

“That’s very unfortunate,” McIlroy said. 

“No, did it roll off?” Thomas asked. 

“It did,” McIlroy said.   

If only Thomas’ partner had designed the course …

“Pard, you got to tell me about that roll-off,” Thomas said to Woods.  

If you can’t laugh at yourself …

Thomas could laugh at others. He could also laugh at himself. 

While Thomas was walking up the fairway with the Golf Channel’s David Feherty, Feherty asked Thomas if he knew he was always going to be a professional golfer, considering his dad and grandfather both were. 

“I probably thought that,” Thomas said. “You know, they might have too at some point, but I was very lucky to where I had the dad who didn’t push me and didn’t force my hand in what I was doing. I mean, he obviously could see from my lack of talent in every other sport that I played that golf was going to be my only chance to play professional sports.” 

Thomas and McIlroy each were two days removed from playing in the U.S. Open. Near New York City. Which prides itself on, among other things, pizza. 

“I ate some pizza on the way to the airport,” Thomas said to McIlroy as they stood near a green. “It’s just … New York pizza, man.”

“Yeah,” McIlroy said. 

There was a pause. He, too, has been eating some pizza. 

“Tell you what. We’re on this big Domino’s kick at the moment. It’s so good,” McIlroy said.  

Thomas doubled over in laughter. 

“I swear to God,” McIlroy said. “Like if you don’t know what a really good local pizza place is, Domino’s is, like, solid.” 

McIlroy said he gets the deluxe, “but I like it extra sausage, extra or whatever.” 

“Just like you can barely pick it up,” Thomas said.  

“Yeah, it’s like almost too soggy,” McIlroy said.  

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor