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Justin Thomas sets lofty goals for 2021 beginning with Sentry Tournament of Champions

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When Justin and Mike Thomas arrived for Christmas Eve dinner at Tiger Woods’s house, he and his dad, fresh off their victory at the PNC Championship a week earlier, sported their red victory belts around their waist like a pair of WWF tag-team champions.

“We would expect them to do the same thing,” Justin Thomas said. “Charlie (Woods) just kind of laughed when he saw us and Tiger (Woods) just said, ‘Well done, well played.’ And you know, it was all in good fun. But they fully expected it, I think.”

No word on whether Thomas anticipated his favorite gift from the holiday season.

“My parents got me a popcorn machine, which is really cool,” he said. “I have a pretty sweet man cave at my house upstairs and they got me, like, one of the old school kind of rolling popcorn machines. So, we’ll be making our own popcorn now.”

As the calendar flipped and the PGA Tour resumes this week in Maui, Hawaii, it’s easy to expect Thomas to pick up right where he left off, which has been the first page of the leaderboard as of late. He has finished T-12 or better in each of his last six starts, dating back to a T-2 at the 2020 Tour Championship. Add in the fact that the Tour’s two Hawaii events have been among his favorite hunting grounds. The defending champion and two-time winner of the Sentry Tournament of Champions has been a force to be reckoned with at Kapalua’s Plantation Course. Thomas isn’t sure why he doesn’t experience some rust after one of the longer layoffs of his season, but coming to the Hawaiian islands – he’s also been a force at the Sony Open of Hawaii, shooting 59 en route to victory – certainly puts him in a different frame of mind.

“I always get up early with the time change here and I play, go out and play early, and then I pretty much hang by the pool and the beach the rest of the afternoon, and there’s not any other tournaments I do that the rest of the year,” he said.

Thomas is coming off a season that by most any measure was exceptional, but Thomas has set high standards for himself and knows that there is room for improvement, especially at the majors.

“It was my most consistent year I’ve had, but it definitely wasn’t as many wins as I feel like I could have and should have had, especially in some big events,” he said. “I feel like I didn’t play well over the weekend or on Sundays and that’s something that I feel like I’ve been able to assess and figure out a little bit what it was, and hopefully when I get in those situations going forward I’ll handle them a lot better.”

Thomas nearly squandered the title at Kapalua a year ago when he blew a two-stroke lead with three holes to go. He was fortunate to salvage a playoff against the previous two winners of the event, Patrick Reed and Xander Schauffele, before prevailing with a birdie on the third playoff hole.

And, so, Thomas will attempt to become the first repeat winner of the event since Geoff Ogilvy turned the trick in 2010. Thomas enters the week rested, armed with a new Titleist driver and golf ball in his arsenal and playing in one of his happy places.

“D.J. and I talked about it yesterday,” Thomas said, “you can put us two on a list of we’ll never turn this place down if we have the opportunity to come here. It’s an unbelievable place to start the year, it’s so relaxing, it’s enjoyable, and it’s a great tournament to have the opportunity to start your year off with a victory.”

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/06/justin-thomas-sentry-tournament-of-champions/

Photos: Mike Whan through the years as LPGA commissioner

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