When the golf season came to an abrupt pause amid the pandemic, Justin Thomas made frequent trips to the Medalist Golf Club for money matches against fellow pros.
He faced Tiger Woods one day and took on Rickie Fowler in an 18-hole game where they used vintage persimmon clubs and then played left-handed.
It was all fun and games, a chance to stay ticking over during the enforced break to the campaign.
However, since the resumption of the PGA Tour calendar nearly a month ago, Thomas is looking back to his sterling best.
Now this weekend, he enters the Memorial Tournament as the overwhelming favourite.
The American strung together a pair of top-10 finishes at Colonial and Harbour Town before missing the cut at the Travelers Championship two weeks ago.
He didn’t play in Detroit last week, but will be bidding for a tour-leading third victory this season.
It’s been a case of Jekyll and Hyde for the 27-year-old at Muirfield, with two top-10 finishes in the last three years.
He has missed three cuts in his six starts which underlines his inconsistencies on this course.
Nevertheless, he is a class act, a player that can cut through the field on his day.
So far this season, he has played in 12 events and made nine cuts. He has two wins, three top-5s, three top-10s and one top-20.
And while the Louisville native may not capture the same limelight as Rory McIlroy or Brooks Koepka, he is nearly on par with two of the best players in the game.
McIlroy may have the wins and towering distance, and Koepka has all the majors, however, Thomas possesses the game from tee to green. The scary thing is he is only 27.
His 12 wins since the start of 2014-15 season are surpassed only by Dustin Johnson’s haul of 13.
His latest triumph came at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January, edging Patrick Reed and Xander Schaffele in a play-off.
By securing his 12th victory, Thomas now has more wins than any active player under the age of 30.
Obviously not all wins are created equals, and there is no doubt Thomas would trade his 12 wins for a few extra majors to add to his 2017 PGA Championship crown.
But the fact remains when it comes to starts to a career in PGA Tour history, Thomas is among the greats like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Sam Snead.
Whether he can build on that remains to be seen, however, it will surely create an intriguing storyline before the former world number one turns 30 in April 2023.
Remarkably consistent since his dominant 2017 season, where he won five times, he is also 7-2 in the most recent Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
On the major front, Thomas tasted PGA Championship success in 2017. His best finish at the Masters, US Open and the Open is T12, T9 and T11 respectively.
Despite clinching one major title, it is his consistency in these marquee events that has gone unnoticed. According to the 15th club, only four other players hold a better cumulative score to par in the majors over the last three seasons.
The Kentucky man is sure to add another major soon and then is when the American public will start to come aboard and recognise his sparkling talents.
What stands out is his Tiger-like iron play, which ranks seventh in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green (.897) on the PGA Tour. For tee-to-green, measuring all strokes not taken on the putting green, he sits fourth (1.645).
If there is one area he could improve it is his putting where he ranks 97th after 38 measured rounds. A move into the top-50 in this stat would be as good as 14 strokes.
As the season unfolds though, he is likely to move up the order in each category.
Travelling to Muirfield this weekend, the field will be gruelling once again, with Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Koepka all participating.
Having players of that calibre around makes the challenge for Thomas just that much stiffer. He loves a test though.
Now, Thomas will go for what would be a tour-leading third victory this season as he prepares to navigate the tricky Ohio course this weekend.
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