Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. — About three months before Justin Thomas had his big end to a great year, he sought some advice from Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy was honest, as always, and showed just how much he pays attention.
Thomas missed the 54-hole cut at The Players Championship with a 79 in the third round, but it was his scorecard at the end of the first round and start of the second round that illustrated some of his issues.
He had a 19-hole stretch that he played in even par — despite making only one par.
Starting on the 12th hole of the first round, he went birdie-bogey-bogey-bogey-eagle-birdie-bogey to cap off a 73. He returned the next day and started the second round on No. 10 and went bogey-bogey-bogey-par-birdie-birdie-birdie-bogey-double bogey, made the turn and started birdie-birdie-birdie. He shot 71.
McIlroy played with him the opening two rounds.
“I wasn’t playing well last year,” Thomas said. “I texted Rory — we’ve played a decent amount of tournament golf — and said, ‘What do you see that’s holding me back?’ He said something funny.”
Thomas scrolled through his phone to find the message.
Along with some things that Thomas chose to keep private, he read the following from McIlroy: “You have the ability to hit every shot perfect, obviously, but it doesn’t always work out. And weeks like last week, that’s why you’ll get 19 holes and make one par.”
There was a deeper message he picked up from those around at the end of the year, and one message from caddie Jimmy Johnson stands out.
“Wait for good things to happen,” Thomas said.
It’s a strategy that has carried him to a strong start this year. He has yet to finish worse than a tie for 22nd in his nine individual tournaments. And he hopes to apply it to The Players Championship this week.
“You could easily be even for 27 or 30 holes, middle of the pack, get on a run and the next thing you know you’re in the tournament,” Thomas said. “Just wait for something good to happen. It’s taken a while for me to figure that out. I’m wanting to go, go, go.”
Phil Mickelson won for the 43rd time on the PGA Tour with his playoff victory in the Mexico Championship.
His goal is to get to 50, and Mickelson is certain he will get there. For now, he has a keepsake for the most recent victory — a note from former President George W. Bush.
“One of the coolest things that happened after I won Mexico is I got a note from President Bush 43,” Mickelson said. “And he said, ‘43 has a great ring to it.’ I just thought that was one of the coolest things that that came from that, and one of the most memorable.”
And no, he doesn’t feel he’s done yet.
One of the more amazing traits of Mickelson is how he has kept his enthusiasm for 27 years playing the PGA Tour. The Players Championship is his 684th start worldwide, which doesn’t include the World Cup, the Dunhill Cup or the 23 teams in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
He doesn’t see himself retiring any time soon.
“The thing that I use to judge that is my motivation,” Mickelson said. “So as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to work harder to be able to maintain the physical ability to go practice as hard as I want to and recover and so forth. So I’ve had to make more sacrifices than I did 15 years ago. However, my body feels as good or better than it did back then, and I’m able to swing the club as well or better than I did.
“I’m looking forward to and honestly believe that the next couple years are going to be some of my best.”