Valspar 2022: Justin Thomas shoots pair of 66s, positioned for run at course he says, ‘I can do some damage’
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Justin Thomas was on a roll.
His putter came to life on Friday morning at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course. He’d already poured in six birdies in his first 10 holes when he made an unlikely birdie at the par-5 fifth.
Thomas blocked his tee shot to the right, tried to cut a 5-wood that stayed dead straight and finished on the cart path left. He took a free drop and drilled an iron from 183 yards to 44 feet right of the hole. Out of position from the get-go, he rapped his putt across the green, over a swale and watched as the ball worked back to the left and tracked to the hole.
“It looked like a four the whole way,” Thomas said later with a smile.
Thomas improved from 117th in Strokes Gained: Putting in the opening round to fourth in round two, gaining more than two strokes on the field. It added up to a second straight 5-under 66 and a 36-hole total of 10-under 132, and two strokes behind leader Adam Hadwin.
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Thomas, 28, may have shared the lead if not for a double-bogey at No. 7, his 16th hole of the day. Thomas pulled his tee shot and clipped some needles off a pine tree. Then he tried to hook a 52-degree wedge around the tree and over a bunker to a front-right hole location. It failed to hook and was the lone blemish on his card.
“It’s just stupid, boneheaded course management decision. I’m better than that,” he said. “Luckily it was early in the tournament so if I play well it won’t affect the outcome.”
Of his putting prowess on Friday, Thomas credited fresh greens and said the biggest adjustment was not making one.
“I’m telling myself good things are coming and I have to be in the right head space for that to happen and I felt like I was today,” Thomas said.
Four birdies on the day so far for @JustinThomas34 🐦
He’s one back at -9. pic.twitter.com/Gg4IWRzjDC
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 18, 2022
Thomas, winner of 14 Tour titles, hasn’t won since the 2021 Players Championship and earlier this week said, he’s “pissed off” that he’s dropped to No. 8 in the world. Nothing would brighten his spirit more than to return to the winner’s circle at a golf course that he’s always enjoyed.
“I’ve loved it ever since playing (AJGA) tournaments here,” he said of Larry Packard’s Copperhead Course. “It’s a place that I feel like I can get my way around really well and I feel like every time I tee it up I can go shoot 7-, 8-, 9-under, although it can play pretty difficult.”
For Thomas, staying patient and believing that the putts would eventually start to drop for him this week is a microcosm of the patience he’s striving for as he tries to re-discover the magic of his five-win season in 2017.
“It’s easy to be frustrated with it, but usually when you’re frustrated, you force things or want things to start happening,” he said. “I feel like I’m really close to playing some good golf and getting on a run and winning some tournaments.”
He added, “You just have to be in the right frame of mind for it to happen. I can’t be all pissed off and moping around the golf course and somehow expect things to start going my way. I just have to stay in that positive frame of mind, so that way when it does happen I’m expecting it.”