Justin Thomas’s US PGA win shows the value of a good caddie

Golfer hails influence of Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay on his victory at Southern Hills

For all of the wonderful shots which Justin Thomas hit in claiming the 104th US PGA Championship in a play-off win at Southern Hills in Tulsa, the 29-year-old American's recall of a tough-love conversation with his veteran caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay showcased the slim margins between success and failure.

"I'm fully confident in saying I wouldn't be standing here [with the Wanamaker Trophy] if he didn't give me that talk," said the player of his bagman's intervention on Saturday evening after Thomas had signed for a third-round 74 that he believed had played him out of the championship, seven shots adrift of Mito Pereira after 54 holes.

Mackay, the long-time caddie to Phil Mickelson before their parting in 2017, had come out of a new career in on-course broadcasting to hook up with Thomas after last year's Ryder Cup and was the solid voice in his ear when it mattered.

As Thomas described it, he was frustrated and angry with how he had scored in the third round.

“I felt like I’d played terrible. And he was like, ‘Dude, you’ve got to stop being so hard on yourself. You’re in contention every single week we’re playing. I’ve had a lot of chances to win tournaments, and it’s a hard golf course; it’s a major championship. You don’t have to be perfect. Just don’t be so hard on yourself, just kind of let stuff happen and everything is trending in the right direction. So just keep staying positive so that good stuff can happen’.”

The upshot was that Thomas left Southern Hills in what he said was “an awesome frame of mind.”

It was a positive mentality that he took with him into the final round, undeterred by the shot on the sixth tee, executing a full-blooded shank at one point amid what was otherwise a masterclass in chasing down and then closing the deal. “I just cold shanked it, I don’t really know how else to say it. It was the best bogey I’ve ever made in my life, that’s for sure,” remarked Thomas. But there was far more good than bad in a final round of 67 for a total of 275. He would go on to beat Will Zalatoris in the three-hole aggregate play-off.

Thomas’s second PGA title moved him to fifth in the official world rankings and gave him a first win since last year’s Players.

He is also of the belief that he is a more improved player now than when he first lifted the trophy at Quail Hollow in 2017: “I’ve matured a lot. Five years is a long time, especially at this stage of my life. I would like to think and hope that everything has just gotten a little better. There’s nothing that’s like standing out of a massive difference. I would say the biggest difference is I probably just weigh about 15 pounds more, I’ve put on some weight.

“The big part of it is you just want to get one per cent better. I don’t need to revamp everything. I don’t need to hit it 30 yards farther. I don’t need to change equipment, change ball... it’s just everything that I have and been doing has been working. It’s just trying to just get it a little bit better. I just feel like that’s what I’ve done in every facet. There’s nothing that stands out, like that is monumentally better. But it’s all improved.”

While Thomas took his chance so impressively, there were many others who could look back believing it was one that got away. Not least Zalatoris, or maybe even more so Pereira. But also Cameron Young and Matt Fitzpatrick. And Rory McIlroy, too, could be included in that number who failed to close the deal.

For Séamus Power, with a career-first top-10, it was different. For the 35-year-old Waterford man competing in just his second major championship, there was further proof of how far he has come in the past year in terms of his golfing trajectory with his tied-ninth place finish moving him to a career best 40th in the official world rankings and securing his place in next month's US Open at Brookline and the 150th Open at St Andrews in July.

"I can't complain too much. The last year, I have been in some sort of contention regularly enough and it definitely helps, it is something to lean on. I know they haven't been majors but you learn a lot and learn things that make you a little calmer and a little more confident... I [was] obviously disappointed coming off the course but overall I think I will look back and be very satisfied with top-10," Power told RTÉ Radio.

Collated final round scores (USA unless stated, Irish in bold Par 70)

275 Justin Thomas 67 67 74 67, Will Zalatoris 66 65 73 71

276 Guillermo Mito Pereira (Chi) 68 64 69 75, Cameron Young 71 67 67 71

277 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 68 69 67 73, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 71 70 69 67, Chris Kirk 68 70 71 68

278 Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 65 71 74 68

279 Abraham Ancer (Mex) 67 69 70 73, Tom Hoge 66 74 70 69, Seamus Power (Irl) 71 69 67 72, Brendan Steele 70 72 69 68

280 Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 70 68 74 68, Lucas Herbert (Aus) 68 73 68 71, Max Homa 70 69 70 71, Davis Riley 68 68 73 71, Justin Rose (Eng) 71 70 71 68, Xander Schauffele 68 73 69 70, Cameron Smith (Aus) 68 70 73 69

281 Sam Burns 71 67 71 72, Talor Gooch 69 70 74 68, Webb Simpson 69 75 65 72

282 Stewart Cink 69 68 71 74, Rickie Fowler 71 70 71 70, Lucas Glover 75 69 68 70, Shane Lowry (Irl) 70 72 71 69, Kevin Na 68 71 72 71, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 68 71 72 71, Aaron Wise 69 72 71 70

283 Adria Arnaus (Spa) 72 68 70 73, Tony Finau 69 72 74 68, Bubba Watson 72 63 73 75, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 72 67 74 70

284 Brian Harman 74 70 71 69, Matt Kuchar 67 71 73 73, Marc Leishman (Aus) 72 71 73 68, Keith Mitchell 72 72 72 68, Patrick Reed 69 70 73 72, Jordan Spieth 72 69 74 69, Gary Woodland 70 68 71 75

285 Viktor Hovland (Nor) 70 70 75 70, Kyoung-Hoon Lee (Kor) 69 73 71 72, Luke List 74 70 71 70, Troy Merritt 73 70 72 70, Kevin Streelman 71 72 75 67, Cameron Tringale 72 68 72 73, Adam Schenk 71 72 72 70

286 Keegan Bradley 72 70 73 71, Laurie Canter (Eng) 72 70 70 74, Cameron Davis (Aus) 72 72 72 70, Jon Rahm (Spa) 73 69 76 68, Harold Varner III 71 71 72 72, Denny McCarthy 73 68 74 71

287 Ryan Fox (Nzl) 70 70 70 77

288 Jason Day (Aus) 71 72 72 73, Brooks Koepka 75 67 72 74, Francesco Molinari (Ita) 70 72 75 71, Collin Morikawa 72 72 74 70, Sebastian Munoz (Col) 74 70 69 75

289 Lanto Griffin 72 69 75 73, Russell Henley 70 73 70 76, Rikuya Hoshino (Jpn) 74 70 69 76, Si Woo Kim (Kor) 71 72 76 70, Jason Kokrak 74 68 77 70, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 72 72 72 73, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 73 71 73 72, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 71 73 73 72

290 Billy Horschel 75 69 77 69

291 Kramer Hickok 71 71 75 74, Beau Hossler 69 71 78 73

292 Justin Harding (Rsa) 71 72 75 74, Adam Hadwin (Can) 73 71 75 73, Shaun Norris (Rsa) 71 72 74 75, Thomas Pieters (Bel) 69 73 77 73

295 Patton Kizzire 69 75 78 73, Maverick McNealy 73 71 78 73

297 Robert MacIntyre (Sco) 70 71 80 76

298 Sepp Straka (Aut) 71 72 79 76