PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — He doesn’t get nearly enough credit for it, but Justin Thomas is one of golf’s most honest and outspoken stars. His Twitter account is full of daily “you know what really grinds my gears?” takes, many of them pertaining to the state of his Alabama Crimson Tide football team, but plenty of others in regards to what he does for a living. In a sport that lends itself to canned responses by players not named McIlroy or Mickelson, Thomas’ transparency both in person and on social media stands out.
Not everybody is a fan, a fact Thomas knows all too well. Two weeks ago, during the Honda Classic, Thomas sent a series of tweets that were deemed to be critical of the USGA in regards to a two-stroke penalty that was given Adam Schenk at PGA National for having his caddie line him up. The USGA fired back (then walked it back), and it appears like the two parties will be communicating going forward.
A month earlier, Thomas was critical of the same penalty that was given to Denny McCarthy at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, calling it “ridiculous” and saying “this needs to be changed ASAP.” It was, which Thomas reminded someone of on Twitter after the person told him that “the game needs the support of its top players not a bashing every time someone gets penalized. Stoking the fire on twitter does more harm than good.”
In late February, in between both the McCarthy and Schenk discussions, Thomas made his voice heard over a ruling back in his home state of Kentucky. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association changed its state-championship format to four-on-four in an effort to speed up play. Previously, teams could start five players, with the top four scores counting. The switch eliminated the fifth player, which irked Thomas, who commented “this is a really bad decision. A lot of great storylines comes from a five man on your team, like we had on ours at Saint X. Change it back and make this right!”
The KHSAA’s response? Thomas and other vocal critics on social media were referred to as “Twitter noise” by the KHSAA commissioner.
And this is all just in the last month. It all sounds like enough to make a pro athlete delete their social media and revert into robot form going forward. Fortunately, Thomas doesn’t plan on backing down, no matter how headache-inducing this all seems.
“Well I understand there’s a time and a place and you can never say everything that’s on your mind,” said the 2017 PGA champion on Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass. “But a lot of media people will tell you that I’ve, I mean I’ve always been honest and I’ve never, I never want to be disrespectful and I would hope that I would never come off as disrespectful, but I do always want to be honest, because if you have something in your head that you would like changed or that you think some way, then, I mean, I’m not going to sit up here and be a robot and lie to you. It’s not fair to you, it’s not fair to me.”
But, as he’s found out on multiple occasions, you really can’t win no matter how hard you try.
“But it’s tough because, in this day and age, it feels like it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re doing. You can never do anything right, so you have to kind of tiptoe your way around sometimes.
“But I just think that somehow the flood gates have kind of been opened with a couple guys in terms of saying how they felt for awhile, whereas I’ve always kind of wanted to say how I feel, just because there’s no reason to tell you guys something differently, especially if you’re going to go write a story about it then it’s just a false story, whereas there’s plenty of things I’m sure that I have wanted to say or could say that it’s just not necessary or the time. But if somehow that time ever comes up, then I guess can I bring it up then.”
Those floodgates he speaks of have opened up for a few fellow stars, most notably Brooks Koepka, who has become a hot-take machine since winning his third major championship last August. Here’s hoping the likes of Koepka and Thomas continue to let it rip, and others follow suit. Just don’t ask JT if the Players Championship should be the fifth major. That’s territory no man wants to honestly wade into.
“I don’t really care. It’s, yeah, it would be great, but that’s a little bit past my pay grade of deciding what the majors are.”