‘It’s a me problem’: Justin Thomas reveals what’s been holding him back

Justin Thomas is seeking PGA Tour win No. 16.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that the better a golfer gets, the higher their expectations.

And it goes without saying that professionals are no different. Tiger Woods was famously unsatisfied with anything less than a win in his heydey. And his close friend, World No. 8 Justin Thomas, has a similar mindset.

Thomas has long been one of the world’s best players, and 2022 has been an excellent year for him by anyone’s measure: he won his second major at the PGA Championship, ended up fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, and shined at the Presidents Cup.

Yet Thomas, like Woods, remains somewhat unsatisfied with his performance.

“I don’t know if — irritated is not the right word. I guess you could just say hungry,” Thomas said ahead of this week’s CJ Cup in response to a question about his motivation. “I feel like I have a lot of guys ahead of me in the world rankings and it’s not that I don’t appreciate it, but I would rather them not be there. It’s nothing on them, but it’s more of a me problem than it is a them problem.

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“Like I said, I just, I’m very hungry to start winning more golf tournaments,” he continued. “I felt for the majority of the year last year I played some really solid consistent golf, but I just didn’t win enough. You have to win more to be at the top of the rankings and I just didn’t do that. Just need to practice more and keep hammering it, and I think that’s something to try to get off to a good start for the season this week.”

While Thomas acknowledged that he’d take a one-win season every year for the rest of his career if that win happened to be a major, he expects a greater quantity of victories.

“I think y’all know I don’t necessarily put a ceiling or a limit on the things that I feel like I can achieve,” he said. “And I also understand that this game is brutal and is very difficult, but also that the amount of quality and depth of field that we’re playing against is just getting better and better and it’s harder to win.

“But that being said, I still feel that I’m capable of winning multiple times a year every year and it’s just sharpening up on a couple things and just executing better when I need to and making those putts when I need to, hitting those shots when I need to. I feel like that’s just what I didn’t do the last two years that I have done in years past. Yeah, a major makes it a great year, but I would have loved for it to have been a major and a couple more.”

So what specifically does Thomas plan to work harder on? He says a lot of it comes down to the little things.

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“I work hard, I practice a lot, I take it very seriously, but I just think maybe just need to do a little bit more,” he said. “I don’t need to revamp anything or change anything, it’s such a fine line out here. Like I said, I feel like I was very close last year and played a lot of really good golf, but just maybe that little thing here or there of where I didn’t quite have that confidence that maybe just a little bit more repetition, a little bit more quality practice, if you will, could do it.

“At the end of the day, I just keep putting myself in position to try to win golf tournaments and it will happen and just hope to get on one of those runs like you see guys do every so often.”

Though this year marks the first time the CJ Cup is being played at Congaree in South Carolina, Thomas does have a bit of history working for him. He’s a two-time winner of the event from the years when it was played in Korea, and GOLF.com’s resident betting expert is very bullish on his chances of notching PGA Tour win No. 16 this week.

Golf.com Editor

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.