V1 Sports Blog

Ways to Win: How Justin Thomas Won the Players Championship

Ways to Win: How Justin Thomas Won the Players Championship

JT Spoils DeChambeau vs. Westwood Rematch 

In “Ways to Win,” we track the PGA TOUR winner’s rounds using the V1 Game mobile app and then analyze how they got the job done using the same tools available to V1 Game users.

One of the hardest things in golf is following up a great round with another. After two days of the PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass, Justin Thomas was closer to the cut line than he was to the lead, but a blistering 64 set the low mark on moving day and vaulted him into contention. While the stage was set for Bryson DeChambeau vs. Lee Westwood for the second week in a row, Thomas was the snake in the grass, waiting to strike. Winning is never easy at the challenging Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and Thomas has been pretty open about his recent struggles winning golf tournaments, suggesting he has been trying too hard to win, rather than letting it come to him as a result of good play. Sunday at The PLAYERS would test his patience, particularly as he started much slower than he did in the third round, where he posted  four birdies in a row.

Thomas started out with seven consecutive pars and two-putted from seven, nine and 11 feet. The frustration had to be growing as he saw opportunities slide by while the leaders continued to leave the door open with their own play. To add to that frustration, Thomas three-putted the eighth hole from 38 feet to fall several back. Using the Strokes Gained Heatmap from his V1 Game scorecard confirms that Thomas was striking the ball extremely well, gaining five strokes from tee to green on the front nine. His putter was truly letting him down and the best cure for a balky putter is hitting it closer, which he did on hole 9, leading to a tap-in birdie and jumpstarting his back-nine run to the title. Patience paid off as he made a birdie putt from seven feet on 10 and an eagle putt from 19 feet on 11 to take a lead he would never relinquish. 

Thomas continues to be an outlier in our Ways to Win articles as he continues to win despite his putting, rather than because of it. Most weeks on the PGA TOUR, the winner is the player who putts the best amongst the best ball strikers. Thomas seems to win almost in spite of his putting.

V1 Game highlights JT’s Strokes Gained performance across categories for the week. He struggled early in the tournament with each facet of the game, but it was his Tee-to-Green play that carried him through the weekend as his putter ran hot and cold. In fact, referencing his final-round scorecard above, Thomas did not miss a green in regulation during the final round until the last hole. The game gets easier when you hit greens. The Shot Histogram from V1 Game highlights Thomas’ strengths and weaknesses by ‘type of shot’ and ‘distance from the hole.’ The size of the bars in the graph shows how many attempts Thomas had from each distance and are colored by the type of lie. The line shows his Strokes Gained performance in each bucket where a higher number is better.

There are two big takeaways from the Shot Histogram. The first is that Thomas gave strokes to the field putting from less than three feet and greater than 21 feet. The second is that he gained strokes on the field for every Tee-to-Green category with the exception of 126-150 yards. His ball striking is phenomenal, but the distance from 126-150 yards is a surprising outlier. Luckily with V1 Game, it is easy to dive deeper. With a simple ‘Tap’ we can dive into the details of that distance bucket to find that he had a penalty from that yardage. One more tap and we are taken to the exact shot on Thursday when he missed the famous island green and lost 2 strokes with one swing.

Based on the data,Thomas should not be too worried about his performance from 126-150 yards. Removing the two strokes lost from the tee shot on 17, he would have gained 0.15 strokes from 126-150 yards and gained strokes in all Tee-to-Green categories. Truly impressive.

Thomas is an extraordinary ball striker and separates himself from the field with Tee-to-Green performance. His putter is streaky and, if he were able to find more consistency with it, he would win at an even higher clip. 

Patience pays off. Thomas found a way to let the result come to him rather than forcing the issue. Golf is different from other sports in that it is not an ‘effort’ sport. Trying harder or wanting it more does not necessarily work in the same way on the golf course as it does on the football field. In fact, it often gets in the way. One shot at a time. A cliche’, but accurate. If you want to know how you stack up to Justin Thomas or even your typical 15 handicap, V1 Game can measure every facet of your game. Whether it’s Tee2Green or clutch putting, V1 Game can guide your practice and track your progress.

Download V1 Game in the app store today and start tracking your golf performance like the pros.

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