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Justin Thomas on playing golf in the Olympics: 'The coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of'

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 7/29/2021 Jeff Metcalfe, USA TODAY
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TOKYO – Even before Justin Thomas teed it up for his first shot Thursday at Kasumigaseki Country Club, he’s already made his mind up about playing golf in the Olympics.

“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of,” the 28-year-old Louisville native said on the eve of golf’s second run since rejoining the Olympics in 2016. “Going to the village and checking out the USA building. It’s so hard to explain. It’s unbelievable.

“Maybe it’s just because being an Olympian, you’re known as the best athlete in the world. That’s something golf isn’t always related to. Maybe it’s just the team camaraderie, seeing every country together especially in a day and age where that doesn’t seem to be what’s in. It brings people together and it brings a common goal, cheering for your team. That’s something that’s so cool about sports and another reason that makes the Olympics so special.”

a man wearing a hat: Justin Thomas of Team USA plays during a practice round at Kasumigaseki Country Club ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games on July 28, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. © Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images Justin Thomas of Team USA plays during a practice round at Kasumigaseki Country Club ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games on July 28, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

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Thomas is No. 4 in the world with a win at the Players Championship in May that helped to put him on the hard-to-make U.S. Olympic team. Other Americans in the 60-man field are world No. 3 Collin Morikawa, No. 5 Xander Schauffele and No. 12 Patrick Reed (replacing No. 6 Bryson DeChambeau, out due to a positive COVID test).

In major tournaments this year, Thomas was 19th at the U.S. Open, 21st at the Masters, 40th at the recent British Open and 82nd at the PGA Championship. So even given his lofty ranking, there is ample room for Thomas to bookend his 2017 PGA Championship title with an Olympic medal on the career achievement mantle.


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“Obviously if I’m going to choose, do I want to win a major or win a medal in the Olympics, I’ll take the major,” he said. “But this would mean the absolute world to me and it would just be the coolest thing to always be able to say not only did you play in it but that you medaled.

“It’s just so different. This is more special and harder to win because you have less chances. But major championships change your life in more than one way. This hasn’t been around long enough to necessarily be in history books vs. majors. There will be a point in time where medals you have could be on that list.”

Thomas’ Olympic experience includes spending time with U.S. men’s basketball coaches – “More than anything, it helped me stay up past 9:30,” he joked of the time adjustment – and showing off his Team USA gear.

“I walk around in normal clothes in the village, they probably wouldn’t think I’m an athlete because of my stature (5-10),” he said. “But I throw that Team USA gear on and it’s he’s part of the Olympics. To me that’s pretty cool.”

Thomas had had success playing in Asia including two wins at the CJ Cup in South Korea, giving him some confidence at minimum on the body adaptation time change front.

Whether that carries over at Kasumigaseki against an elite field is unpredictable, particularly since the course is difficult to compare to others, Thomas said.

“It’s got similar grass in the fairways to next week in Memphis,” he said. “The ball sits up perfectly, it can go pretty far on your iron shots and wedges. The greens are really, really good. The rough is long, it’s very important to hit the fairways. It’s got huge greens with a lot of slope. You can make a lot of birdies if you drive it well, but if you don’t it’s going to be hard to score out of the rough. You’ll see low scores for sure, but you could see a big disparity.”

Thomas changed putters before the Scottish and British Opens, hoping for some of the magic he found in 2017 when he made a similar change and won PGA Tour Player of the Year.

“It’s about perfecting your process and understanding what works for me,” Johnson said. “To where when I put my tee in the ground, I feel ready and I’m able to go. I’m still always trying to figure out if there is something I can do better, maybe add one little thing or take something out that hasn’t worked as well for me.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Justin Thomas on playing golf in the Olympics: 'The coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of'

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