The PGA TOUR announced Wednesday that FedExCup champion Justin Thomas has been named the 2017 winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award for PGA TOUR Player of the Year, as voted on by the TOUR’s membership for the 2016-17 season.
“On behalf of the PGA TOUR, our congratulations to Justin Thomas on being voted the PGA TOUR Player of the Year by his peers,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “With five remarkable wins and his season-long consistency that resulted in the FedExCup title, Justin is a deserving winner of PGA TOUR Player of the Year. We also salute his excellence off the course, as he is one of the many young stars that have been tremendous ambassadors for the PGA TOUR this year.”
Thomas received his Jack Nicklaus Award on Wednesday, and from the Golden Bear himself. Nicklaus surprised Thomas by interrupting an interview with PGA TOUR Entertainment, which was being held in the library at The Bear’s Club—the Nicklaus family’s home club in Jupiter, Fla. where Thomas, a Jupiter resident, is a member.
This is the third straight year a member of The Bear’s Club has received the Jack Nicklaus Award as PGA TOUR Player of the Year, following Rory McIlroy (2015) and Dustin Johnson (2016).
“Justin is obviously not my son, but he’s like another one to me,” Nicklaus said. “He is one of the kids that has come to me—perhaps more than anybody. We have talked a lot, and I think I probably have helped him a little bit from a ‘thinking’ standpoint. I love to be around these young kids and see them succeed. How many people in their early 20s listen to a 77-year-old guy? Not too many. I’m very flattered by that.”
Thomas, a 24-year-old native of Louisville, Kentucky, attended the University of Alabama, where he was the 2012 Jack Nicklaus Award recipient as the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) Collegiate Player of the Year in Division I.
Fast-forward five years, and Thomas captured the 2017 FedExCup, following a five-win season that included his first major championship victory at the PGA Championship. His other victories came at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia (October 2016), the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Sony Open in Hawaii, and Dell Technologies Championship. At the Sony Open, Thomas became the youngest player to shoot 59 on the PGA TOUR, doing so in the first round en route to a wire-to-wire victory.
Thomas joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth as the only players since 1960 to capture five wins, including a major, in a season before the age of 25.
“I’ve learned from talking to people like Mr. Nicklaus that you want to surround yourself with the best,” Thomas said. “You want to be talking to people that have the most experience and knowledge, and you can’t get any better than talking to one of the best himself. I’m very fortunate that he has been kind enough to spend the time with me to talk about learning how to win when I was a rookie out on TOUR, and then after winning, trying to manage expectations and emotions. I’m obviously very proud, but I’m sure a part of him may be a little happy as well. He has helped me a lot to get to where I am. It’s a great cap, for sure.”
Nicklaus maintains an open-door policy with today’s young players.
“Justin called me before he went to Augusta and we sat down for a couple of hours (at my home),” Nicklaus said. “He then called me before he went over to the British Open. We’ve talked a little bit here and there about all kinds of things.
“Justin Thomas has come a long way in one year from a young man who won one tournament in Malaysia in 2015, to defending his title there in 2016, and then winning four more times in 2017—including his first major,” Nicklaus added. “He has come from just being a really good player, to someone who has started to truly believe in himself. To see how he’s learned, matured, gained confidence, and become more comfortable in his own skin makes me very proud. I like Justin a lot as both a person and a player, and I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time with him. He wants to learn and get better, and he is doing just that. This award simply serves as further validation. I’m just delighted for Justin.”
In 25 starts, Thomas had a TOUR-best 12 top-10 finishes (tied with Spieth) with 19 made cuts. In addition to his five wins, Thomas added four additional top-five finishes, led by a runner-up effort at the TOUR Championship. He also took home the Arnold Palmer Award as the TOUR’s leading money-winner ($9,921,560) and finished third in Adjusted Scoring Average (69.359). Last week in his Presidents Cup debut, Thomas posted a record of 3-1-1 for the victorious U.S. Team at Liberty National Golf Club.
Thomas was selected for the honor over finalists Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth.
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