GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy — Justin Thomas says he hasn’t “kept receipts” for those who have criticized his inclusion in the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
The only thing that matters to Thomas, he told reporters Tuesday, is that U.S. team captain Zach Johnson and the other American golfers who will take on the European team starting Friday at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club wanted him there.
“After I was picked from the team, it doesn’t matter what it is, especially when it comes to people and stuff online, everybody’s got an opinion and theirs is right and everybody else’s is wrong, at least that’s what generally seems to be,” Thomas said. “So for that exact reason, I stayed away from social media and stayed away from stuff online because I knew nothing good was going to come from it.”
Thomas missed the cut in six of his 21 starts on the PGA Tour this season and didn’t qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs for the first time in his career. The two-time PGA Championship winner has fallen to 24th in the Official World Golf Ranking. He had rounds in the 80s at the U.S. Open and Open Championship.
Thomas finished 15th in the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings and needed one of Johnson’s six captain’s picks to be included on the team for the third straight time.
Thomas’ recent form didn’t seem to matter as much to Johnson as his stellar history in the Ryder Cup. Thomas has a 6-2-1 record in two previous appearances. He won four out of five possible points in Europe’s 17½-10½ victory at Le Golf National outside Paris in 2018, including taking down Rory McIlroy in singles. In the U.S. team’s 19-9 rout of Europe at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in 2021, Thomas captured 2½ out of four points.
Johnson said he relied on the six automatic qualifiers for the team — Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele — for input while deciding his six captain’s choices.
During a conversation before the selections were announced, Thomas said he told Johnson: “Look, obviously, of course, I want to be on the team. I think that I can compete and that I can go out there and I can do great for the team. But at the end of the day, if the six guys in that room don’t think that I’m what’s best for the team, then I don’t deserve to go.”
“That’s been my thought the whole time, and I’m very glad that they did and do have faith in me,” Thomas said. “And now that I’m here, all of us hold the same weight as the other one. We are all one, and it’s just our job to go out there and try to win points.”
Thomas did play better in his most recent start on tour, finishing fifth at the Fortinet Championship in Napa, California, on Sept. 17. Schauffele played a couple of practice rounds with Thomas in Florida recently. Schauffele said Thomas “smoked me” in one match and they tied in the other one.
“He hates losing,” Schauffele said. “He’s said before, I’ve heard him say it, he gets up for these. You see a lot more emotion out of him, raw emotion out of him than you normally would at an individual tournament or on the PGA Tour.”
Jordan Spieth, who figures to play with Thomas in foursomes (alternate shot) and four-ball (best-ball) matches this week, called his good friend a “backbone” for the U.S. team. Spieth said Thomas loves playing in front of raucous crowds, especially those outside the U.S.
“It creates maybe just a little extra level of focus for him,” Spieth said. “I’ve been beside him for these Ryder Cups, and he quite simply plays better golf than the guys across from him.”
Cantlay called Thomas the “best Ryder Cup player in the last decade.”
“Yeah, he is not afraid of the moment he’s in, and he loves match play,” Cantlay said. “His record speaks for itself. I think any time you have a chance to have that guy on your team, you want him.”
More than anything else, Thomas said he’s in a better place mentally and believes he can win golf tournaments. He didn’t feel that way very often this summer.
“I’m just in a good headspace, and for me, that’s what’s most important,” Thomas said. “I’ve said it in other times in the media. I’ve won golf tournaments without my best stuff, and I take a lot of pride in that and I have taken a lot of pride in that in the past. I did not feel like I could win golf tournaments this past year with the state that I was in mentally.”