Stars of 2017 - Justin Thomas
2017 has seen American Justin Thomas assume his rightful place at the top table of the men's game.
Many tipped Thomas to have a bright 2016-17 wraparound season on the PGA TOUR and to start making an impact on the biggest stages in golf but few could have foreseen just how much of an impact he's had since October 2016.
It was this month that the 'Justin Thomas story' began to unfold, as he saw off the likes of Hideki Matsuyama to successfully defend his CIMB Classic crown in Malaysia. The ability to win under the spotlight of being the defending champion displayed a ruthlessness that he had perhaps not yet fully demonstrated up to that point of his PGA TOUR career and was a sign of even bigger things to come.
It was in Hawaii in early 2017 that Thomas underlined his potential to become one of the best players of his generation. A third PGA TOUR win of his career came at the SBS Tournament of Champions, an event with a stellar field, and his fourth success (his third of the season already) followed just a week later at the Sony Open.
In Honolulu he romped to a seven-stroke victory, with Justin Rose his nearest challenger, in no small part due to his incredible opening round 59. A combination of eight birdies, two eagles (and a bogey!) resulted in Thomas becoming the youngest player ever in PGA TOUR history to shoot a sub-60 round and had him knocking on the door of the world's top 10.
The 24-year-old (23 when he won the Sony Open) had to wait seven months for his next triumph but when it came it was more than worth the wait. Quail Hollow played host to the year's final major and as it turned out, another fine exhibition of golf from the year's star player.
Several players without major wins to their names, messrs Patrick Reed, Francesco Molinari, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler, were all right in the hunt at the PGA Championship but ultimately they couldn't deny Justin Thomas his richly deserved breakthrough.
On the strength of his major success and his three other wins earlier in the season the Kentucky-born star entered the FedEx Cup playoff series in fine fettle and among the top contenders to win the PGA TOUR's season-long race. Victory at the Dell Technologies Championship and a runner-up finish at the TOUR Championship saw him go on to lift the FedEx Cup for the first time and take home a cool $10 million bonus.
With the strength in depth at the top of the men's game at present it is hard to imagine any player being capable of winning five times or more in a season twice on the spin but there's no doubt that Justin Thomas is one of the very few that is capable of such an extraordinary feat and he already has a win to his name in the current wraparound season, chalked up at THE CJ CUP.
It will be fascinating to see how Thomas fares in his bid to hit similar heights in 2018, a year that will surely see him make his Ryder Cup bow for a USA side that will be led by another man partial to a sub-60 round, Jim Furyk.