The season finally complete, the FedEx Cup trophy next to him, Justin Thomas revealed what had driven him all season long. He pulled out his cell phone and read the 13 items listed under “16-17 goals.” Some of the benchmarks focused on tournament results. He exceeded all of the latter with an impressive season that featured five wins. The checklist in his iPhone’s notes app showed that he wanted to win at least one tournament this season, play in the final two groups of a major, win one of the four majors, qualify for the Tour Championship and make his first Presidents Cup team. He did all of those, but winning the FedEx Cup wasn’t on the list, not because the season-long race wasn’t important, but because he recognized the difficulty of the task.
“One week versus an entire year is tough,” Thomas said. “There’re a lot of great players out here. If someone said, ‘You may not win one of these for eight years,’ it would (stink) but I could see it.” He doesn’t have to worry about that. He was the PGA Tour’s best player from start to finish, and he confirmed that by winning the FedEx Cup. Most importantly, Thomas established himself as a closer. That’s a title that can be harder to earn than the FedEx Cup. All five of Thomas’ wins this season were by two or more shots, including three three-shot victories and a seven-shot win at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He broke 70 in the final round of all five of his victories, shooting 64, 69, 65, 68 and 66. “You just have to want to be there,” he said. “I just enjoy that rush, the goose bumps you get.”
Thomas fell one shot short of Xander Schauffele on Sunday at the Tour Championship, but birdies on the 70th and 71st holes clinched the FedEx Cup. If Thomas didn’t birdie two of the last three holes, he was at risk of losing the larger prize to Jordan Spieth. That’s why his victory, even if it came after he fell short in the season finale, was another example of Thomas’ clutch play this season and at the coming Presidents Cup.This year’s Match Play is hosted at the Liberty National Golf Club (Jersey City, NJ) founded by Paul Fireman (who owned Reebok before selling it to Adidas for $3.8 billion) and his son Dan. Opened in 2006, Liberty National cost the Firemans $250 million to build, 60 only to cover the cost of a stunning club-house.
The Liberty National Golf Club offers unique views of the Manhattan skyline, the Verrazano Bridge, the New York harbour with the statue of liberty as an iconic medallion. For the founders, offering to the world such an exceptional golf facility was far more important than foreseeing any return on their investment good or bad. This being said, joining the club is tagged $500 000 along with another healthy figure for the annual dues.
Some of this year’s Presidents Cup players have already tested the course on championship conditions for the Barclays in 2009 and 2013. It features three par 5’s on the front nine and none on the back. Kevin Chappell currently holds a 62 course record (-9) set in 2013 and he’s a member of the 2017 Team USA led by Captain Jim Furyk with Tiger Woods as one of his assistants, Nick Price leading the International squad assisted by Ernie Els.
Good to know, the Presidents Cup allocates $200,000 to each player for their week. That amount is then directed to a charity of their choice. In the early 90’s, the Ryder Cup team members (the same individuals) were complaining about the lack of any serious compensation, but some pocket money.
That was one of the reasons behind the creation of this biennial tournament and that’s where tradition collides with selfishness.This week at Liberty National is going to be something quite special with President Donald J. Trump having accepted the invitation to be Honorary Chairman of the 12th Presidents Cup after his predecessors (Ford, Bush father and son, Clinton, Obama twice) at the White House.
What kind of extravaganza can we expect this time? SM/PPH