Top-ranked Thomas seeks long reign as golf's number one
Top-ranked Justin Thomas achieved a career goal this month by becoming golf's world number one, but what the 25-year-old American truly yearns for is a long reign at the top.
Thomas, who won his first major title at last year's PGA Championship, overtook Dustin Johnson on May 13 to become the 21st man to reach golf's summit since the rankings began in 1986.
Tiger Woods, a 14-time major winner, spent a record 683 weeks atop the rankings before being most recently dethroned in 2014. Johnson's reign lasted 64 weeks. Only Woods, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Rory McIlroy held it longer.
"It means a lot, but it's something I want to have for a long time," Thomas said. "Like D.J. has and Tiger did and other guys who have had it for a long time, that's more of a goal of mine as opposed to just having it.
"That means I'm playing better than everybody else for an extended period of time. Get hot for a year or two, have it and then fall off the map, that doesn't really mean a whole lot to me. I would much rather play well for another eight to 10 years and see how long I can have it."
Thomas won five times in 2017, including both US PGA events in Hawaii and the CJ Cup in South Korea, and his runner-up finish at the Tour Championship was enough to win the tour playoff crown.
His run extended to this year with a February triumph at the PGA Honda Classic, although it was an 11th-place Players showing that lifted him to number one.
"It's an honor well deserved," said 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus. "He has been playing great golf for a while now."
- Coming to France early -
Among the rewards of success for Thomas likely will be playing in his first Ryder Cup. He stands second on the US qualifying points list from which eight players will be named to a squad trying to retain the trophy against Europe in France in September.
That prospect has enticed Thomas to play in the European Tour's French Open at Le Golf National starting June 28.
"I'm excited to see the course and go check it out a little bit," Thomas said. "It's not like a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup in the States where we can just pop over and play when we want.
"I'm hoping to get some good vibes from it and learn a few things about the course. It is always good to help provide any information that might help our team prepare."
Spain's Jon Rahm and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood of England will be among his likely Ryder Cup rivals in the field that week also.
"I'm sure the field is going to be tremendous, especially being a Ryder Cup venue," Thomas said.
Thomas had his first taste of US team play in last year's triumphant Presidents Cup effort when the host Americans won 19-11. Thomas went 3-1-1 and his 3.5 points were the most from any of the six rookies on the squad.
Boosting his Ryder Cup connection was working in a sub-group with Presidents Cup assistant captain Jim Furyk, who serves as this year's US Ryder Cup captain and brings a fiery passion.
"It was really cool to see how fired up and into it he got," Thomas said. "He was intense, but a good intense. Not like pressure intense, but he got us pumped up, he got us motivated, he did anything that we needed.
"I was very fortunate, knowing that I'm going to now be playing the Ryder Cup for him, because I got to see a side of him that got me even more excited to play the Ryder Cup than I already was.
"He's going to be a great captain. We would be excited to play for anybody, especially in a Ryder Cup, but I think he's going to do great things."
Thomas won and halved in foursomes (alternate shot) and fourball (best ball) formats alongside pal Rickie Fowler in the 2017 Presidents Cup, a combination likely to be seen again in France.
"It's very important," Thomas said of chemistry. "I think you see it every year in Presidents Cups and Ryder Cups, guys that have successful partnerships, they just seem to mesh well when they're out there and playing."
© 2018 AFP