[PHOTO: Douglas P. DeFelice]

Justin Thomas’ struggles last season were well documented as the PGA Tour star went winless, missed the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the first time, and needed to be a captain’s pick to make the US Ryder Cup team. But the two-time major champion has shown plenty of signs since late last year that he’s working his way back to the form that made him world No.1 as recently as 2020. Minus one part of his game, that is.

Thomas is currently ranked 149th on the tour in Strokes Gained: Putting. He’s losing 0.516 strokes on the greens per round, or more than two strokes per tournament. Which is, well, not good.

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Not that putting was ever JT’s strength. During the 2016-2017 season in which he won five times and was named PGA Tour Player of the Year, Thomas was 43rd in that stat. But gaining nearly a stroke-and-a-half on the greens over 72 holes like he did that season vs losing two makes a big difference.

However, on the eve of the Valspar Championship, where Thomas is one of the favourites, the 15-time PGA Tour winner insisted that he’s putting better than the numbers say. And we have to say that he had a pretty good excuse for those poor stats.

“I think this early in the year it can be pretty skewed, I would say. Also, my first two events of the season were events where ShotLink isn’t even there, just due to the different golf courses,” Thomas told reporters at Innisbrook. “So I had my first in Palm Springs and Torrey Pines, I didn’t putt great on Sunday or Saturday, whatever it was, but, so I have five pretty good rounds that were completely taken out of stats. I think the majority of the time stats can be helpful, but I’m starting to realise that they can just be a little skewed here and there, especially this early in the season.”

He makes a fair point. There were no Strokes Gained stats for all four rounds at the American Express, where Thomas shot 27-under and finished T-3. And only one of his rounds at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am counted towards the metric. So that’s six rounds out of 21 that didn’t measure Strokes Gained: Putting. That’s nearly one-third of his rounds thus far.

Meanwhile, arguably his four worst rounds of 2024, missing the cut at both the Genesis Invitational and the Players Championship, counted towards his stats. So it’s an even smaller sample size that most golf fans realise. Still, that doesn’t mean Thomas isn’t aware that he has a lot to improve on in that area.

“But, of course, at the end of the day, I would love to and know that I need to make more putts,” Thomas added, “but I feel like I’m seeing things going the right way and just want that hole to start looking like a bucket one of these days.”

If that ever does happen, hopefully for JT’s stats sake, the tour will be keeping track of Strokes Gained: Putting that week.