Flip on CBS this weekend for college basketball, and you’ll no doubt see one. Don’t worry if your head is momentarily turned, either. You’ll hear it. The piano jingle is unmistakable.
The Masters is less than three weeks away, but its commercials are here now. And if they get you thinking of green jackets, azaleas and pimento cheese, and if you’ve ever wondered if the pros are just like you, there’s this.
Justin Thomas is jonesing when he watches them, too.
“Yeah, it’s the same way,” he said Friday.
The Valspar Championship is being played this week, and Thomas is among your leaders — he followed up a first-round 66 with another one in the second, and he’s four shots back of leader Matthew NeSmith heading into the weekend. But much like the ads, the talk is Masters, and Thomas is also looking ahead. Yes, Georgia is on his mind. Notably, ESPN is using the song for its commercials.
Back to golf. So much is Augusta National in Thomas’ thoughts that he said he may be playing one course — even one in such high regard as TPC Sawgrass, host of last week’s Players Championship — but he’s also plotting shot shapes at the longtime home of the year’s first major.
“I’m very fired up,” Thomas said. “I have to talk myself down probably. There’s so many — it’s just unlike any tournament or any course. I don’t understand why, but I feel like everybody’s very similar to the fact that I’m hitting some of those tee shots last week, and it’s, I’m trying to hit that like low hooking driver on No. 2, and I know that there’s a, this is what I’m going to hit on 13. This is what I’m going to hit off of 2, or I’m sorry, off 10.
“You have some second shots into par-5s where like this is, I feel like I’m going to be able to hit this into the second shot into 15. Or potentially you hit a ball above your feet, [and] you’re like, OK, this is kind of good practice for a second shot on 13.
“So it’s weird. There’s no other golf tournament, no other golf course, that I do that on, but for some reason Augusta’s just always on your mind.”
JT could be singing the song himself. He remembers the nerves of his first Masters as a pro, in 2016 — “I mean, the practice rounds were honestly like wow, this is so cool, how many people are out here” — but the jitters are gone. There’s a job to do.
He knows the scoreboard. To date, he’s made every cut in six appearances, but has just one top 10 — a fourth in the November Masters of 2020.
“To be honest, I feel like all of my finishes at Augusta are just due to poor execution,” Thomas said.
“I feel very confident that I know how to get around that place and I know what pins, where to hit it, where to go off the tees, and how holes play with certain winds, et cetera, but I just, I’ve yet to catch a remotely hot putter that week, and it just, it’s just about making those putts or hitting those shots when you just quite need to, and I think that’s why I have a handful of 10th to 25ths instead of a couple wins.”
How much would just one mean? While the answer is obvious, just listen to him talk about his annual drive down Magnolia Lane.
Jim Nantz’s line on CBS about the Masters being “a tradition unlike any other” is as precise as a Thomas iron shot.
“There’s nothing — I think there’s a handful of places in the world where you get really excited to take someone for the first time,” Thomas said, “and that drive is definitely one of them, when you’re able to take ’em down Magnolia Lane.”