Justin Thomas didn’t enter Sunday’s final round thinking he had much of a chance to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He was in the final group, but sat in third place, a shot behind Matt Kuchar and five behind Rickie Fowler, who had been rock-solid through three rounds. But in a rollercoaster round that saw Fowler slip with a double-bogey and a bizarre, ruling-filled triple, Thomas was left shocked just how close he ended up to the tournament lead.
“I can’t believe if I would have shot two-under, I would have been in a playoff,” he said afterwards. “And, yeah, I mean for myself I just didn’t, I couldn’t make the putts.”
In the end, it was Fowler’s day. And when it came down to it, Thomas was thrilled with the way the tournament turned out for his good friend. “I’m really happy for Rick. I told him in the scoring tent, I think that he’s going to get a lot more out of something like that, showing resilience and coming back like that as opposed to going out there and winning by four or five,” he said.
That resilience came in response to a situation at No. 11 that included a chip that rolled into the water, a drop that rolled into the same water and a lengthy ruling. But Fowler got up-and-down for what he called a “good triple” to salvage his chances.
“It was funny because I had, hit into bunker three times and I had gotten three of just the most awful lies and really bad breaks,” Thomas said. “And Rick and I were kind of talking about it and saying how I kind of had got screwed. And then after that on 11, I was like, well, I don’t think I got so screwed anymore compared to that.”
Thomas struggled to get going in sketchy conditions during the final round, but rallied with birdies at the final two holes to post a round of one-over 72, finishing third and bettering playing partners Fowler (74) and Kuchar (75) for the group’s low man. “I mean, I’ve never been in a group that had worse momentum. I have never seen that happen,” he said. Still, Thomas was happy to celebrate the result.
“It was Rickie’s week. It’s Rickie’s day and we’re happy for him.”