Jon Rahm heads into the PGA Championship as world No 1 and Rory McIlroy chases a fifth major title, while Justin Thomas is defending champion after 2022 victory; Watch all four rounds exclusively live on Sky Sports Golf
By Ali Stafford at Oak Hill
Last Updated: 15/05/23 9:02pm
Justin Thomas insists he can see “light at the end of the tunnel” in his own game as he looks to end a frustrating run of results at his PGA Championship title defence.
The former world No 1 ended a 14-month winless stretch when he overturned a seven-stroke deficit in the final round of last year’s contest to snatch a dramatic play-off victory, although has struggled for consistency since securing the Wanamaker Trophy for a second time last May.
Thomas has only managed two top-10 finishes in his 10 starts so far this year on the PGA Tour and has dropped to world No 15, his lowest ranking since 2017, with the American stuttering to a tied-60th finish at The Players and missing the cut at The Masters.
The 30-year-old was a shot off the halfway lead at the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this month before fading to a share of 14th after rounds of 70 and 71 over the weekend, with Thomas encouraged by what he saw ahead of this week’s appearance at Oak Hill.
“I felt like I showed a lot of really good signs in Charlotte,” Thomas said in his pre-tournament press conference. “I think Saturday was a great example. It just was a round where I didn’t really have very much. I felt like I left a couple shots out there putting-wise and just wasn’t sharp.
“I was hitting a lot of very poor wedges and irons. I birdied two of the last four holes and salvaged an under-par round on a tough golf course. Bones [caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay] and I said on the 18th green that this is the stuff that we haven’t been doing this year.
“I felt like that 70 that I shot that day was a round that I’ve been shooting 73 and 74, which then gave me an opportunity to play myself into contention with nine holes left, whereas I wouldn’t have been that way beforehand.
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“It wasn’t making that putt to keep or get some momentum or wasn’t hitting wedges in there close, making those two, three, four birdies in a row. I felt like in Charlotte I really, like, turned a little bit of a corner of seeing more of scoring better.”
Historic week ahead for Thomas?
Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods are the only players in the stroke play era to successfully defend their PGA Championship title, while Thomas can match that feat and become just the sixth player to win the event three or more times.
“How I described it for a couple months is I’ve never felt so far and so close at the same time,” Thomas added. “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. Then your confidence builds back up and next thing you know, you don’t even remember what you were thinking in those times.
“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. I feel like I said it in Charlotte a little bit, I’m starting to see a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Watch the 105th PGA Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins on Thursday from 1pm on Sky Sports Golf.