Justin Thomas is a model citizen and a world-class golfer. The best in the world, according to last week’s rankings.
At 27, he already has won 13 PGA Tour titles, a major (2017 PGA Championship) a FedEx Cup, Player of the Year honors and shot a 59.
A year ago, he started the Justin Thomas Foundation, which will raise millions to help children in need, junior golf and military families. Wonderful stuff.
Thomas is the kind of man you would want to see at your front door to take your daughter on a date.
But Sunday’s final round of the PGA Championship once again showed the Jupiter resident has a problem – his competitive drive is so strong that when he becomes frustrated on the golf course, he starts dropping f-bombs.
And that problem is a bigger problem these days with all the hot mics sitting around spectator-less courses on the PGA Tour. During ESPN’s telecast, Thomas dropped the f-bomb when a birdie putt slid by the cup on the fifth hole. He said it loudly.
“Dude, you’ve got to be f—ing kidding me,” Thomas said.
What’s amazing is ESPN announcer Scott Van Pelt wasn’t even stunned by Thomas’ words. “Well …” was all Van Pelt could say.
Later, on CBS’ telecast, Thomas could be heard cursing again when he hit a bad shot from the ninth fairway into a green side bunker. Thomas muttered two expletives that clearly were audible.
“We apologize for anyone who may have been offended by a couple of Justin’s comments there,” said CBS’ Ian Baker-Finch, another Jupiter resident.
This is not the way the son (and grandson) of PGA Professionals should be acting on the course, and Thomas know it.
If this were a junior event in the South Florida PGA, Thomas would be warned after the first offense and removed from the course and suspended after the second offense.
We know the PGA Tour won’t do more than slap Thomas on his golf glove with, perhaps, a $1,000 or $2,000 fine. Tip money for a guy who made $1.82 million for winning last week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
As the World No. 1 at the PGA, Thomas knew virtually everything he said would be caught by the mics, especially with the lack of crowd noise, and acted more responsibly.
This has been his pattern. Heck, when Thomas won the 2018 Honda Classic at PGA National in a playoff, he yelled the f-word in celebration with cameras zeroing in on his face.
“I didn’t know that was obviously going to be on TV or I wouldn’t have said it,” Thomas said afterward. “I’m sorry. Please don’t fine me very much, PGA (Tour). I did not know that was on TV, so I apologize to anybody that heard it, or everybody that heard it.”
Just about everybody heard his X-rated comment on ESPN, either live or on social media. Predictably, some had no problem with it because, hey, we’ve all been there on the golf course, having a rough moment.
But Thomas is a professional and he’s paid extremely well to act professionally.
There’s a huge difference between trash talking, like West Palm Beach native Brooks Koepka did before the final round – when he pointed out he was the only player on the leaderboard with more than one major – and talking trash like Thomas did at least twice during his final round.
Every year the PGA Tour receives complaints from the FCC from viewers after hearing expletives during a golf telecast. Tiger Woods memorably dropped the f-bomb during a Saturday morning telecast in 2000, when he knocked his tee shot at Pebble Beach’s 18th hole into the Pacific Ocean while completing a rain-delayed second round.
Spit happens on a golf course. But there’s an easy cure.
I remember watching an LPGA Tour event 20 years ago with my daughter, Alexandra, when Dottie Pepper hit an offline shot. “Dang it, Dottie!” she scolded herself.
A day later, my daughter got upset at something and yelled, “Dang it, Dottie.”
The next time I saw Pepper, I profusely thanked her for her choice of words.
“I know some kids are going to be listening, so I try to be careful with what I say,” said Pepper, who serves on the board of directors of my son’s Eric Dolch Children’s Encephalitis Foundation. “That’s not to say I don’t get mad on the course.”
Don’t we all? But the rest of us don’t have to worry about our every word being recorded.
Those who do, the stars who make $10 million-plus a year for playing a game, need to act and talk more responsibly.
We can hear you.
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