Justin Thomas wasn’t playing his best golf coming into the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club.

He hadn’t played for a month before he decided to make a late addition to his schedule by playing the AT&T Byron Nelson the week prior to the season’s second major. He hoped it would be a chance to not only shake off some rust, but to also prepare for the PGA Championship. Thomas wasn’t thrilled with his game in his return to competition at the Byron Nelson but managed a tie for fifth ahead of his trip to Southern Hills.

Wednesday, on the eve of the PGA Championship while practicing on the range, Thomas turned to his father, Mike Thomas, PGA, for insights into why he wasn’t feeling comfortable over the ball.

“I was just hitting it terrible. I wasn't hitting the middle of the face. I wasn't hitting the shots I wanted,” Thomas explained before reaching out to his father. “He was like, well, let's just start trying to hit some shots, like put a stick out, like let's hit some fades, hit some draws, and then immediately just started flushing it and hitting it how I wanted.”

Mike has always been a reliable voice and resource for Justin, who won the PGA Championship in 2017. Mike’s insights lifted Justin to one of the few low rounds of the afternoon wave Thursday in which he managed a closing birdie at the daunting par 4 18th hole to card a 3-under par 67 and sit just two strokes off the pace on day one.

“I didn't necessarily feel great over it today, but I felt good enough to where I could do somewhat of what I wanted,” Thomas said about the first round, in which he ranked 68th in Strokes Gained Off the Tee.

Thomas’ lack of comfort, physically and mentally with his game, can be traced back to the Masters Tournament in April, when, after the first round he said he had difficulty focusing on the golf in front of him. Thomas says his caddie, Jim “Bones” Makay, went out of his way to be very simple in his recommendations Thursday to avoid repeating the situation they faced at Augusta National Golf Club.

“I felt like we did a good job of being very specific and just very, very small targets and specific in the shots where we wanted to start, land, yardages, stuff like that, to where the more I could do that, the more I could hone in,” Thomas said about Thursday’s round.

And Thomas will try to keep things simple again on Friday as he looks to continue what his father recommended - think less about the position of the golf club and more on the shots needed to successfully navigate Southern Hills.

“When I get in conditions like this, I just get out there and I try to hit shots and try to hit numbers as opposed to trying to get it in a certain position and going from there,” Thomas said. “That's something I really tried to do today, and I feel that it worked pretty well.”

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