Justin Thomas vaguely remembers the first course record he ever held. He was maybe 9 years old and playing a practice round for the World Junior Championships in San Diego. The lesson? “It was like an executive course,” Thomas recalls, probably indicating that the mysterious setup is the Piper Glen at the Singing Hills Resort in El Cajon (historical tournament records are patchy). The 18-hole par 3 course extended to a par 58 for the youngest at the time.
Although Thomas has forgotten the course, he will never forget the person whose record he broke.
“Tiger [Woods] had the course record, and I remember breaking it and it was obviously the coolest thing I ever did at that time, ”said Thomas. “Something tells me he’s not up yet, but I know it was the first one I broke, and I was pretty excited about it.”
About two decades later, Thomas holds several more course records, including a handful on the PGA Tour. He added to that goal on Saturday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions by shooting a 61 under 12 on the Plantation par 73 course in Kapalua.
“If there is such a thing as a less easy 12, I really feel like it was,” said Thomas, who managed two eagles and eight birdies, including a fence birdie. two-putt par-5 18e hole after hitting a magnificent hybrid cut at 15 feet.
Thomas’ 61 broke the previous Plantation Course record in one fell swoop and relegated the five players who had previously registered 62 to bridesmaids: KJ Choi (2003), Graeme McDowell (2011), Chris Kirk (2015) , Jason Day (2015) and Xander Sc Chaudele (2019). Thomas also has competitive course records on a few other Tour circuits including Waialae Country Club (59), Medinah Country Club (61), TPC Kuala Lumpur (61) and Erin Hills (63).
“Every golf course you go to, I mean there’s a scorecard in the locker room,” Thomas said. “It’s pretty fun having a handful of buddies who live in Chicago who go to play Medinah every once in a while and they’ll send me pictures from my scoreboard. It’s stuff like that whether people know me or not, or whether or not they know whoever shot the course record, it seems like that was part of the club at that time. So that certainly means something.
Perhaps Thomas’ scorching round catapulted him into the race is perhaps more meaningful. He opened the 2022 Tour lid lifter in 74, tying Lucas Glover for the worst first round of the 38-man field. “I looked up [at the leaderboard] and was last, ”Thomas said. “I felt like it was quite humiliating.”
Sentry Tournament of Champions Open Field Scores
But he backed that up in 67 and had another improvement of over six strokes in mild, benign conditions on Saturday. He opened his Moving Day score by birding a 15-foot hole on the par-4 third hole. Two holes later, he boxed a 45 footer for the eagle. He scored 5 under 31 after a birdie in the ninth par 5 before catching fire with a run of 6 under No. 12-16. This stretch included a second shot of 176 meters at 6 feet par-5 15e hole, which he drilled.
“I wasn’t crazy about aggression today,” said Thomas, who finished his turn 17 under and just a headshot, though second-round leader Cameron Smith and others better contenders still have more than half the course to play. “When you have wedges in your hand with soft greens, you just attack. It doesn’t matter if you are last or first. You’re just trying to birdies and I feel like I did. I mean, I was so far away, it’s not like I can really look at the standings and try to play differently. It was fair: try to birdie every hole we played. “
According to Justin Ray of Group Twenty-First, Thomas now has a nine-lap fastest lap of 62 or less since 2015.
“He’s got a huge ability to keep pushing that lower and lower and that’s a skill,” added Thomas’ competitor Jordan Spieth. “It was definitely fun to see him being a friend of mine.”