Caddie Jim 'Bones' Mackay (L) and Justin Thomas celebrate Thomas win at the PGA Championship on Sunday at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. Photo by Kyle Rivas/UPI | License Photo
May 23 (UPI) -- Justin Thomas used all resources available for his historic rally at the 2022 PGA Championship, including his golf pro father, his un-retired caddie and motivation from friend Tiger Woods for what he called a "team win."
Thomas entered Sunday's final round seven shots behind third-round leader Mito Pereira. He then tied John Mahaffey for the largest final-round comeback in tournament history to force a playoff with Will Zalatoris and claim his second career major title.
"It was an unbelievable team win," Thomas told reporters Sunday. "It took a lot of self belief and a lot of patience. I wasn't looking at leaderboards. I was just trying to play golf."
Thomas told reporters earlier in the week that he was "lost" when trying to figure out Southern Hills Country Club's Championship Course in Tulsa, Okla. He spent time at the driving range with his father, Mike Thomas, a PGA Tour pro-turned-Thomas' swing coach.
Thomas credited caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay with calming his nerves after he shot a 4-over par 74 on Saturday, his worst round of the tournament. He said he spoke to Woods on Saturday and also shared a tough-love type conversation with Mackay the same night at the driving range.
"I'm fully confident in saying I wouldn't be standing here if he wouldn't have given me that talk," Thomas said of the conversation with Mackay. "I needed to let some steam out.
"I didn't need to bring my frustration and anger home with me. I didn't need to leave the golf course in a negative frame of mind."
Thomas said he cleared those negative thoughts out of his head before he left the course. He took a look at the leaderboard that night and saw that none of the players ahead of him were previous major champions, which meant they might not know how to handle the pressure of late contention.
He also knew that lack of experience paired with the tough course layout and unpredictable winds would make it hard on his foes to post low scores.
"There were a lot of great players ahead of me, but I knew they hadn't won a major before," Thomas said. "I knew I hadn't won in a while, but I remember how tough it was and how tough it is now. I knew I was going to be nervous and they would feel the exact same thing."
Thomas tied Tommy Fleetwood with a 3-under 67 for the best scores of the final round on Sunday in Tulsa. Thomas and Zalatoris were tied for second place when they stepped off the course, with matching 5-under scores for the tournament.
Thomas said he went into the caddie's tent to watch as Pereira finished his round. The PGA Tour rookie held a one-stroke lead as he hit off the tee on No. 18, but hit the shot into the water. He then carded a double bogey on the hole, to send Thomas and Zalatoris into first place and prompt a playoff.
"You want to win a golf tournament, you don't want someone to lose it," Thomas said of Pereira. "I have had times in my career where I feel like I've let a tournament get away. It's brutal. It's not fun. But at same time, if you are able to channel that and look back at later you will be able to learn from it or be better from it.
"I know this year or in years to come he will feel more comfortable because he can draw from this experience. He played unbelievable golf this weekend."
Thomas earned $2.7 million for his victory. He also jumped from No. 9 to No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
"There might be people ranked higher than me in the world ranking, but at least in my eyes, I'm on top of the golf world right now," Thomas said. "I'm very proud of that so I think I will let the trophy speak for itself."
The PGA Tour schedule continues with the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge from Thursday through Sunday at Colonial Golf Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Thomas, Zalatoris and Pereira also are in the 120-player field for that tournament.
Justin Thomas poses with the trophy after winning the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., on Sunday. Photo by Kyle Rivas/UPI | License Photo