CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “I like me some me.”
At least sometimes.
You may remember when Justin Thomas mouthed those words. Sampling the line from NFL star Terrell Owens, he shouted it in exhuburation after he and Tiger Woods won a Friday foursomes match at the 2019 Presidents Cup. To amplify the moment, Thomas putter-dropped, hugged Woods and pushed him away.
At Quail Hollow on Thursday, in the first U.S.-International clash since then, Thomas’ day was maybe more Goldilocks golf.
Not too hot.
Not too cold.
But in the end, just about right. After all, he and partner Jordan Spieth defeated Sungjae Im and Corey Conners 2 and 1 in a foursomes match, part of four U.S. victories as the Americans jumped to a 4-1 day one advantage.
“Oh, it was a big grind,” Thomas said afterward. “I mean, you know, we played a really, really good team, a team that hits a lot of fairways, a lot of quality shots. I hit some unbelievably questionable shots, and I think that’s why we make such a great team. We can salvage when we don’t have our best stuff on a day like today.”
How questionable were a few? So odd was one that Golf Channel analyst Paul Azinger labeled it “one of the worst shots you’ll ever see a good player hit.” We’ll just let the stats tell our story. On the 168-yard, par-3 4th, Thomas teed off, caught as much turf behind the ball as ball itself, and hit it 126 yards.
Doing the math, that left Spieth with a 44-yard pitch.
“I’m just laying you up to a good yardage,” Thomas joked to Spieth, according to the broadcast.
Later, on the par-5 16th, Thomas hit from the left greenside bunker, barely escaped, lifted his right hand in confusion and gave a wide-eyed nod. Of course, you also know that Thomas and Spieth clinched things a hole later, so onto the good.
On the par-4 1st, Thomas holed a 7-footer to halve the hole. On the par-4 3rd, Thomas hit to 20 feet, and he and Spieth took a 1-up lead. On the par-4 5th, from 149 yards out, Thomas hit to 7 feet from a fairway bunker, and he and Spieth grabbed a 2-up lead. On the par-3 6th, Thomas hit his tee shot to 20 feet, and he and Spieth went 3-up. On the par-4 8th, Thomas rolled in a 10-footer to halve the hole.
The biggest moment came on 15, though there, too, things got a little wacky. Spieth teed off. Thomas hit just over the green. Spieth rolled one just off, in the other direction.
And Thomas parred, from 26 feet away.
This time, with him and Spieth going 2-up, he shouted: “That’s what I’m talking about.” He paced around the green. He slapped Spieth’s right hand. He shouted again: “Wooooo.”
On that same green five years ago, Thomas won the PGA Championship for his first major.
“I mean, it’s the best,” Thomas said of his opening match. “I feel like there’s four or five holes out here that have a little bit bigger setting and gallery than others. Was fortunate enough, just really tried to use that moment. I mean, those switches are so big in match play.”
“He’s enjoyed that green before,” Spieth said. “It’s one of his favorite greens.”
“Yeah, what Jordan said,” Thomas said.