On Wednesday ahead of the World Wide Technology Championship, Justin Thomas graded his play in 2021 a “C at best, C-minus.”
Since his Players Championship win in March, the only time the 29-year-old has held a lead was after 18 holes of The Northern Trust.
But a new season brings a new start for Thomas and a new caddie in Jim “Bones” Mackay. In his second start this campaign (T-18 at the CJ Cup), Thomas sits solo third after 54 holes at Mayakoba, three shots off Viktor Hovland’s lead at 19 under. Thomas hopes he can bump up his yearly grade with a 15th PGA Tour win.
“I don’t know (my grade),” Thomas said after a third-round 64. “Hopefully, I’ll let you know tomorrow. This is a new season, completely different. Especially with Bones, it kind of feels like a fresh start, a new start. I was getting off to a good start for the FedExCup especially and it might take a little bit of pressure off us, but I don’t know, I would love to be able to answer that question tomorrow.”
Full-field scores from the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba
Thomas said the full-time relationship with Mackay, who spent 25 years as Phil Mickelson’s caddie before becoming a Golf Channel and NBC Sports commentator in 2017, is coming along. Mackay, 56, filled in as Thomas’ caddie at the 2018 Sony Open; the 2020 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, which Thomas won by three strokes; and during the 2020 PGA Championship and FedExCup playoffs.
“It’s great,” Thomas said. “Everybody sees greens differently and different greens differently. Some people see Bermuda better than bent or vice versa. He read them with me the final round of Vegas at Summit and [I] made a pretty good amount of putts, and we read them very similarly. Sometimes just hearing that confirmation can be something that takes it from being pretty confident to really confident. There’s definitely been times when we disagree, you’re not always going to have the same read, but I felt like I’ve liked that kind of routine that we’ve had and it’s been nice.”
Even if Mackay gives a good read, Thomas needs to be the one to execute the shots and the Kentucky native said he played well on Day 3. He improved his driving accuracy (he was T-155 in Round 1 and T-33 in Round 3), but notes he will have to improve his putting on Sunday for a chance to come away with the win in Mexico.
“I just did everything pretty well,” he said. “I’m not doing anything great, I’m not doing anything bad, I’m cleaning up nicely on the greens. I feel like my speed on my lag putting, it’s not very good this week. I’ve had a couple really sloppy three-putts and had a couple nice saves today to prevent that again.
“No, it’s just I’m definitely making some of the shorter putts I need to, and it feels good because I know I’m not getting everything out of my rounds. I definitely drove it better today than the last two days, so I feel like if I drive it well again tomorrow, I should have a pretty good chance the last couple holes.”