The Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits is fast approaching, and the U.S. team is finally taking shape with the auto-qualifiers solidified after the BMW, and Steve Stricker’s captain’s picks announced on Wednesday.
Those captain’s picks have generated their fair share of speculation over the past few months, as they typically do in the lead-up to the biennial match that pits a 12-man team from the United States against an equal slate of top European pros.
One of the biggest mysteries has been whether Stricker would use one of his picks on 51-year-old Phil Mickelson, who made the conversation much more interesting with his triumphant sixth major win at the PGA Championship in May.
The mystery seemed to be solved when Stricker added Mickelson as an assistant captain last week, allowing the American stalwart to be a part of the team without hitting any shots, but a narrow window was still open for Phil to get a surprise pick and be a playing-assistant captain.
That window was all Justin Thomas needed to have some fun with the situation… at the expense of some unassuming fans.
Thomas, a Ryder Cup veteran who was among the players who auto-qualified for this year’s team, joined his teammates for a dinner hosted by Captain Stricker in Atlanta during the Tour Championship. And on SiriusXM PGA Tour radio, Thomas revealed a prank he pulled on some admirers following the meal.
When the dinner was finished, Thomas left the restaurant alongside teammates Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa to head back to their hotel together. On the way, they passed by a group of six people waiting outside a restaurant who recognized them and exchanged some pleasantries.
That’s when JT saw the perfect moment to have some fun with the fans courtesy of Mickelson.
“Me being someone who always has to mess with people, I just couldn’t help myself,” Thomas shared on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio. “And we’re walking down the stairs and I looked at Bryson and Collin and I was like ‘Watch this.’ And I said it loud enough for [the fans] to hear, I was like, ‘I can’t believe we’re picking Phil, what do you guys think about that?’
The shocked onlookers instantly reacted to the pronouncement, just as Thomas had planned.
“All six of them turned around and looked at us and I was like, ‘I really hope that’s on the internet tomorrow,'” Thomas said.
You can listen to Thomas tell the story in full below.