Justin Thomas caps sparkling year with $10m FedEx Cup win
However, American was beaten to Tour Championship title by Xander Schauffele
Justin Thomas of the United States celebrates with the trophy on the 18th green after winning the FedExCup and second in the TOUR Championship as Xander Schauffele celebrates with the Calamity Jane trophy for winning the Tour Championship after the final round at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Justin Thomas has $10m worth of consolation after losing the Tour Championship by a stroke to Xander Schauffele. Sunday on the outskirts of Atlanta golf produced one of its curious scenarios in which even the runner-up had cause for epic celebration.
For Thomas, the FedEx Cup was fitting reward for a season which returned five victories, one of which was a major championship, the US PGA. Schauffele has cause to be equally delighted with his efforts. Not only did he see off a stellar field at East Lake but his rookie year on the PGA Tour has brought two wins and a cataclysmic rise from the position of merely seeking to retain his card. Even after a share of fifth at the US Open and victory at the Greenbrier Classic Schauffele was 82nd in the world rankings, in what proves an indication of his earlier standing.
At 23 the Californian can be classed among the rising stars of American golf. “I actually thought I had missed a two-footer to win,” said Schauffele of an agonising 72nd-hole moment. “I’m still in shock. This is just unreal.”
Schauffele’s 68 meant an aggregate of minus 12. Thomas’s 66, while sufficient to succeed Rory McIlroy as overall FedEx champion, was not enough to make him the first player since Tiger Woods to record six event victories in a season. Thomas should, though, now rise to No4 in the world.
“I feel like I played so well this year, I was consistent,” Thomas said. “There have been a lot of great weeks and great memories. I’ve had life-changing events that just kind of ended with another kind of life-changing thing for me.” For financial context Thomas’s career earnings a week ago were $15m.
As Thomas and Schauffele battled it out, the sun had long since set on Paul Casey’s chances. The Englishman reached the turn in 38 and failed to recover thereafter, his 73 meaning a fifth-placed finish and extension of the wait for a PGA Tour win which stretches back to 2009. When it mattered most, Casey’s putting touch deserted him; he made a four at the last to spare the ignominy of being the only player in the Sunday field not to post a birdie. Unsurprisingly he declined the opportunity to share his thoughts after stepping from the course.
Casey held a two-stroke lead before a fourth-round ball was struck. While the simple thing would be to castigate his performance under pressure – the 40-year-old leads Tour scoring averages on day one but has less success on Sundays – it is a fact that Casey has not made a habit of putting himself in a position to win. He must hope to learn from this bruising experience, with consolation at least arriving in Casey’s private life; he departed Atlanta to meet his baby daughter for the first time.
The vagaries of the FedEx points process meant Jordan Spieth for a spell had control of the $10m. A combination of Thomas’s charge through the field and a slow Spieth finish – he played the last four holes in one over – controlled the bonus destiny. Given the pair are long-time friends, Spieth was not going to begrudge Thomas his latest glory.
“JT just has a tenacity, a confidence that takes experience in order to build and to have,” Spieth said. “I saw it at the Sony Open in January. He was out in front of the field and really just kept himself there.
“The week before when he won it was a battle with Hideki Matsuyama. When you come off a week like that, it takes a lot out of you, and that next Sunday the fact that he did it again, he got his fourth win and then obviously the [US]PGA; what he did there shows that he has that confidence no matter what the stage is, no matter where it is.”