CHARLOTTE – Justin Thomas had a tall order as he entered the final round of the 99th PGA Championship on Aug. 13 at Quail Hollow Club.
He was down two shots and tied for fourth, but overcame his deficit with an impressive performance on the back nine. That stretch included three birdies to finish with a 68 for the day and an overall score of 276 to capture the Wanamaker Trophy and the first major championship of his career.
The 24-year-old Thomas, who is a native of Louisville, Ky., finished eight-under-par. He edged Francesco Molinari, Louis Oosthuizen and Patrick Reed, who tied for second at six-under and 278 overall.
“Obviously, as a kid growing up being a golf fan you want to win all the majors, you want to win any major,” Thomas said. “For me, the PGA had a special place in my heart and a special drive. I want to win every tournament I play in.
“I want to try to win every major, but at the end of the day this was really cool for this to be my first one and have my dad (PGA Master Professional Mike Thomas) here, and I know grandpa (PGA Life Member Paul Thomas) was watching at home. I was able to talk to him. That was pretty cool. It’s a great win for the family, and it’s a moment we’ll never forget.”
Rickie Fowler, who finished tied for fifth at four-under and with a total score of 279, hung around until the end to support Thomas and celebrate with his friend.
“I told him (Thomas), ‘Way to ball out,’” Fowler said. “He was able to make some good pars coming in to put himself in a good position to go do what he did. It was pretty cool to see. It’s fun to see your good buddies play well and win, but at the same time it’s even more satisfying when you get to go out and beat all your buddies.
“It’s a good kind of rivalry between all the young guys. We’re all friends. We all travel together, practice together, play practice rounds together. J.T. and I, we live right down the street from each other, so we spend a lot of time traveling together and practicing together. It’s only going to push me even harder to want to get back and go beat him up the next time we tee it up. It’s cool to be here getting to see Justin get it done.”
The field for the PGA Championship was filled from top to bottom with some of the Tour’s top golfers, making it one of the deepest and most competitive major championships the sport has seen this year. However, Quail Hollow Club, as the venue, proved to be just as daunting. For example, only 12 players finished below par, which is the smallest group to do so in eight years.
“It’s not an easy golf course,” Fowler said. “It’s not an easy closing stretch.”
Resident wins Long Drive
Jason Kokrak, of Charlotte won the Long Drive Contest with a winning drive of 321 yards. PGA of America president Paul Levy presented Kokrak with a money clip that winners of the competition are awarded. Kokrak also will get a $25,000 check that will go to the charity of his choice.
Event provides economic boom
Expectations for the 99th PGA Championship to give the greater Charlotte area a significant economic boost were high. PGA of America announced that officials estimated it would inject the city with about $100 million, which was attributed to record ticket and corporate hospitality sales, combined with fans coming from all over the globe to take in the festivities in south Charlotte.