Justin Thomas tees off on the 12th hole during his practice round Monday, April 8, 2019, for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta.    
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Thomas trying to stay out of his own way in quest for Masters

Thomas owns a major title with the 2017 PGA Championship. He currently is ranked No. 5 in the world. He believes Augusta National sets up well for him. However, in three Masters, Thomas has finished T-39, T-22 and T-17.

“I’ve had a hard time at this event every year because I love this golf course so much, and I feel like it fits my game so well,” Thomas said. “I’ve always prepared so hard and well for it, that when I get here, I really feel like I should have a great chance to win and I think that gets in my own way sometimes.”

The statistics suggest that Thomas struggles with his putting at Augusta National. In his three tournaments, he finished 11th, sixth and second in greens hit, yet 51st, 49th and 42nd in putting. In his 12 rounds at the Masters, Thomas recorded 8 over on the par-3’s, 18 over on the par-4’s and 18 under on the par-5’s.

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Thomas said this week he believes that he has, at times, been overly cautious in playing Augusta National.

“I’m playing too conservatively,” Thomas said. “That being said, I’m not going to be going at every pin and doing everything I can to try to birdie every hole, but it’s almost like I have an 8‑iron in my hands, and I’m like, ‘oh, I can’t miss over there, I’m going to hit it to 30 feet.’ If I have an 8‑iron in my hand, like I’m, if I’m hitting it well I’m probably going to hit it to inside 10 feet, so why am I not going at this pin, when if it was the — if it's the Sony Open, I would be going at the pin, why all of a sudden since it’s the Masters am I going to be aiming trying to make par, kind of thing.”

Thomas enters the Masters with four top-5 finishes in his 10 events, including a runner-up at the Genesis Open. His Masters preparation also included a vacation with his parents to the Bahamas. It afforded him a chance to get his mind in a good place by playing relaxing rounds of golf with his father, as the two did when Thomas was a youngster, fishing and sitting by a pool. Instead of seven consecutive days of intense practice, Thomas came to Augusta with the plan to work on his game during the week and gradually round into shape by Thursday.

“I think we tried to assess why I haven’t played better in majors,” Thomas said. “I feel like my game sets up for majors very well. I mean, I’ve had a couple good majors, but as a whole, I would say I have very, very highly under-performed, versus what I feel like I should have and that's what we’re trying to figure out; if it’s me, if it's someone else, if I’m putting too much work in, if my mental game is off, if I’m pressing too hard, if I’m being too aggressive or whatever it is.”

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