AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Justin Thomas knows his way around a golf course but that did not stop the world number two from doing his best to sneak a few tips from a pair of former U.S. Masters champions this week at Augusta National.
The 24-year-old American has a pair of mediocre finishes in his only Masters starts and so this week arranged a practice round with four-times winner Tiger Woods and Fred Couples, who won his only Green Jacket in 1992.
“I pretty much would just kind of watch where they were chipping and putting from and when they were done I would just take my balls and I would go do the same stuff,” Thomas told reporters on Tuesday.
“They know what they’re doing out here so either they were messing with me and I just hit a lot of unproductive shots or hopefully I learned some stuff.”
Thomas enjoyed a breakout campaign last year during which he was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year after a five-win season that included his maiden major at the PGA Championship.
It capped a remarkable stretch for a player who joined the PGA Tour in 2015 and had many chances to win tournaments before unlocking the secret to his success.
“I think I wanted it too bad for a while. I was pressing too hard,” said Thomas. “I was trying to make things happen early in the round when in reality basically every Sunday, when there’s anywhere from five to ten people that have a chance to win, about five to seven of them are going to take themselves out of the tournament.
“And it’s not the fact that they’re bad players, it’s just the fact that you’re not going to get ten players and all of them play great. It’s just how it is.”
Thomas, whose best finish at Augusta National was a share of 22nd place last year, said he will enter the year’s first major with less pressure having already triumphed in one of golf’s four blue riband events.
“Not getting questions on a day like today (such as) when do you feel like you’re going to get your first major, or do you feel like you’re one of the best players without a major, so I was glad to get that over with as quick as I could,” said Thomas.
“But it’s just more than anything when I get in those scenarios or when I have a chance to win a big tournament or any tournament, I’m able to look back at the PGA Championship and just remember the things that I went through and the feelings I felt, the emotions that I had, and just try to kind of learn from that and use it to my advantage.”
Editing by Christian Radnedge