By Travis Duncan
Justin Thomas has become one of my, and about everyone else’s, favorite golfer on Tour. He’s got a down to earthness to him, a quality that has made pro golfers famous for many decades. In general we like guys we can relate to in some fashion, or in some cases admire.
I first saw Thomas at the BMW Championship in Indiana and he was just different, no arrogance, no country club air about him. Just a regular dude beyond the sense of about every other golfer on the tour, not excessive in really anything. Then you find out he’s probably one of the Top 5 golfers on the planet right now and it all comes together where this guy is fun to watch and fun to follow.
I don’t like how he’s gotten outspoken. He’s got a great personality and it’s fun to really get to know these guys a little bit through the lense of social media. But going down the road of worrying about the USGA, the PGA Tour, the PGA, or really any of these big, many times corporate bodies is just a waste of time.
It’s not because he shouldn’t speak his mind, but simply put it’s not worth the trouble. Golf has always and will always be run by a bunch of guys who really want to protect the sport and might not be quite as down to earth and they are worried about the next generation of golfers and revenue streams.
This week the USGA and him got into a Twitter fight. Justin kinda started it, but somehow the USGA accused him of refusing a meeting. Which turned out to be totally not true. A worse look as it turns out for the USGA than Thomas. The USGA made a public apology for their Tweets. A bad look for a national organization of the stature of the USGA.
After further and more direct conversations with @JustinThomas34, we realize he did not avoid a discussion with the USGA nor cancel any meetings. We value his and all players’ opinions and are committed to a productive dialogue as the golf world adjusts to the modernized rules.
— USGA PR (@USGA_PR) March 5, 2019
I get where Thomas is coming from. Criticizing greens, criticizing course layouts and the like is kinda like a right of passage in pro golf. Rookies don’t get to do this. Thomas is just 25, but he actually played his first PGA Tour even when he was 16 and made the cut! The kid is no stranger to competitive golf. He probably has the pedigree at this point to criticize.
It’s the cool thing to do.
Guys like Phil Mickelson, Tiger and can blast a USGA course layout with ease and no one thinks much of it. But for Thomas it seems like it caused more controversy than was warranted.
The thing about the rules is, golf is a business. Changing the golf rules is a business strategy in someways. Most if not all decisions are business decisions either directly or indirectly. It’s not solely about sport when you put the P in PGA. Even the USGA has to worry about keeping people buying golf equipment, booking golf vacations, everything. Golf is a great game. But it’s a business. Golf was probably ok with the current rules. But making the rules of golf less complicated and less intimidating will keep all the so-called stakeholders with money in their pockets if they do it right. They want more people playing and taking up golf, it’s as simple as that. It’s not personal against any golfer really.
The game has survived centuries. The people who are affected most by incidental rule changes are probably the pros who have played golf everyday for the last 10-20 years or pretty much every waking moment of their lives. Most pros really don’t need a whole lot of help with the rules or making them simple, but in the spirit of uniformity they apply them to the pros as well.
The fact is that part of the thrill of the PGA Tour is that they are playing pretty much the same game that you and I are playing on a Saturday afternoon. Granted better equipment for the most part, private courses, physical therapists, nutritionists, lawyers, the whole nine…but in general its the same game.
I like Justin Thomas when he gives opinions and likely it does draw attention to the sport but personally I think he’s wasting his time trying to get the USGA or any of the pro golf organizations to really listen.