PGA Championship - Final Round
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It’s a big week for Justin Thomas. Major weeks always are for the two-time PGA Champion. But this week is unlike any other. There’s a major championship in his hometown, his beloved Louisville, at Valhalla, the same place he visited as a 7-year-old in 2000 to watch his idol Tiger Woods defeat Bob May in a playoff that historic Sunday.

So yes, this week is big. Huge.

“I would say this tournament at this golf course is a lot of reason I feel like for my love for professional golf and wanting to win majors and golf tournaments and watching Tiger here in 2000 in person,” Thomas said Tuesday at Valhalla. “No, it's just crazy how fast it's gotten to this week from when it was announced to me being on tour and being fortunate enough to win this tournament and now actually being here. So I'm happy it's here.”

But with all the fanfare, comes pressure, which Thomas is quick to point out is something he feels he always has had to work diligently to manage.

“Kind of what I told everybody is I'm not really sure exactly how I'm going to feel,” Thomas said. “Like I've never experienced it. I've never played a professional tournament, let alone a PGA, in my hometown, so I'm sure it will be some new feelings, some good feelings.”

Thomas’ two PGA victories came in drastically different forms. In 2017, at Quail Hollow, Thomas was two shots off the lead heading into the final round and strategically managed his way around the course to shoot 68. He topped three others by two shots to capture his first major title.

Two years ago, at Southern Hills, Thomas was famously seven shots off the lead heading into the final round and shot 67. It didn’t look like he’d win until the bitter end, when Mito Pereira made double bogey on the 72nd hole, which created a three-hole playoff with Thomas and Will Zalatoris, which Thomas played in 2 under par.

So far this year, Thomas has shown flashes of his old form and some that he’d like to forget, like at the Masters last month where he played the last four holes in 7 over par Friday to go from easily making the cut to missing it. But he also has five top-12 finishes. Last week he tied for 21st place at the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, site of his 2017 PGA victory.

Thomas has some familiarity with Valhalla this week but not as much as you’d expect. He figures he’d played here a dozen times or so, but before last week’s scouting mission, it had been close to a decade since he’d seen the place. His parents would surprise him on birthdays with a round at Valhalla and he’s been here to practice at various other times as a youth.

Justin Thomas Press Conference
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MAY 13: Justin Thomas smiles after chipping in for birdie from off the ninth hole green during practice for the 106th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 13, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)
Credit: Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR

“The course hasn't changed too much from what I remember,” he said. “It's all very right in front of you. You just hit a driver really far and really straight and hit your irons well. That seems to be the theme here.”

About that week in 2000. It’s been 24 years, and Thomas is now 31. Many of the details have faded from his memory. Some though, have not.

“Yeah, I obviously don't remember a lot, being 7 years old,” Thomas said. “But I remember just being probably like inspired, being very in awe. I just hadn't been to anything that big. I mean, the energy that week was crazy.”

And will be again this week, with those in attendance cheering for the hometown favorite.

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