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PGA Championship: Justin Thomas feels like slump is behind him ahead of title defense at Oak Hill

Justin Thomas rallied from seven shots back to win last year's PGA Championship

Things haven’t necessarily been great for Justin Thomas since his win at last year’s PGA Championship.

Thomas, who rallied from a record-tying seven shots back to win his second major championship last May, hasn’t won a tournament since. He’s also dealt with some rather serious health issues that led to a new special diet he’s been trying in recent months.

Now at Oak Hill Country Club this week in Rochester, New York, Thomas feels like he’s nearly to the point where he can win a tournament again. Whether that means he can successfully defend his title at this year’s major championship, however, remains to be seen.

“I mean, how I described it for a couple months is I've never felt so far and so close at the same time,” Thomas said Monday. “That's a very hard thing to explain, and it's also a very hard way to try to compete and win a golf tournament.

“That's how you get out of it, just playing your way out of it and hitting the shots when you want to and making those putts when you need to, and then your confidence builds back up, and next thing you know, you don't even remember what you were thinking in those times.”

Justin Thomas
Justin Thomas rallied from seven shots back to win last year's PGA Championship. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images) (Andy Lyons via Getty Images)

Thomas won his second PGA Championship last year after beating Will Zalatoris in a three-hole playoff at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thomas, after going 5-under through his final round, edged out Zalatoris with a pair of birdies and a par in the playoff. That officially completed what was a wild seven-shot comeback.

The win was the 15th of Thomas’ career, and his last victory on the PGA Tour. He won his first and only other major championship at the PGA Championship in 2017.

While he’s only missed one cut this season, he only has three finishes inside the top-20 — including a fourth-place finish at the WM Phoenix Open and most recently a T14 finish at the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago. He missed the cut at the Masters, and went T60 at The Players Championship in March.

“After a couple of months or six months, whatever it is, where you're not performing as well as you feel like you should and not having the finishes you feel like you should or not winning tournaments like you feel like you should, it's pretty easy to get pissed off and understand what's going wrong,” Thomas said.

“Like anything, I've preached this to myself … how you learn is failure and negatives. And I feel like I've had a great opportunity for a lot of learning the past, whatever, six months, couple months, this year.”

At the very least, Thomas is trending in the right direction.

He’s climbed back to No. 13 in the Official World Golf Rankings. While that’s impressive, this stretch is his first outside of the top 10 in the world rankings since 2017. He also is fresh off a pretty solid showing at Quail Hollow Club earlier this month. While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, Thomas repeatedly said he felt like he was in position to at least make a run.

The slump, which he admitted he was “probably” still in a few weeks ago, feels like it’s almost behind him.

“I'm starting to see a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.