CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Justin Thomas emerged from the shadow of a longtime friend and won the PGA Championship to take his place among the young elite in golf.
With two big breaks to start the back nine, a chip-in for birdie to seize control, and a timely seven-iron that soared over the water to a peninsula green, Thomas closed with a three-under 68 yesterday for a two-shot victory.
The PGA Championship was the most fitting major for the 24-year-old son of a PGA professional.
Mike Thomas, a former PGA board member and longtime pro at Harmony Landing outside Louisville, Ky., walked along the edge of the 18th green and into the arms of his son: a major champion.
The week began with Jordan Spieth's quest for a career Grand Slam.
Spieth was at the 18th green late yesteray afternoon at Quail Hollow but only so he could celebrate the moment with Thomas—close friends since they were 14.
“So awesome, dude,” Spieth told him.
Thomas was every bit of that.
With five players still in the mix on the back nine, Thomas surged ahead by chipping in from 40 feet on the par-three 13th hole.
Then he held his nerve down the stretch as his challengers eventually faded, one after another.
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask. tied for seventh at four-under for his best career finish at a major following a two-under 69 yesterday.
Hideki Matsuyama, bidding to become the first player from Japan to win a major, recovered from back-to-back bogeys with birdies on the 14th and 15th holes to get within one shot.
But the championship turned on the 16th hole.
Thomas faced a six-foot par putt to stay at eight-under. Matsuyama, meanwhile, caught a good lie over the green and chipped to five feet.
Thomas wasted no time over the putt and drilled it in the centre of cup.
But Matsuyama missed his and was two shots behind.
“The last major of the year and I was in contention,” noted Matsuyama, a runner-up at the U.S. Open.
“All I can do is try harder next time.”
Thomas sealed it with a seven-iron from 221 yards—so pure that he let the club twirl through his hands as he watched it clear the water and roll out to 15 feet.
The birdie putt curled in and his lead was up to three going to the 18th.
A final bogey only affected the score.
Thomas finished at eight-under 276 for his fourth victory of the year.
Kevin Kisner was the last one who had a chance to catch him.
But he three-putted from 100 feet on the 16th for bogey, couldn't birdie the 17th from long range, and hit his second shot into the water to finish with a double-bogey.
Kisner, the 54-hole leader, played the final three holes in six-over on the weekend.
He closed with a 74.
“That's not going to be fun to look at,” Kisner said of his weekend finish over the brutal closing stretch at Quail Hollow.
“I thought I had to get to 10 [under] starting the day to win, and that was about right,” he added.
“I had every opportunity. I just didn't finish it off.”
Matsuyama also hit into the water on No. 18 and made bogey for a 72 to finish three back.
Louis Oosthuizen (70), Patrick Reed (67), and Francesco Molinari (67) tied for second, though none had a chance to win playing the 18th.
Oosthuizen holed a 50-foot birdie putt on the 18th to get a runner-up finish in the majors for the fourth time.
For Reed, it was his first top 10 in a major.