Los Angeles (AFP) – Justin Thomas’ all-around game has made him one of the hottest players on the PGA Tour and the American will try to carry that momentum into this week’s Tournament of Champions, the first event of 2020.
Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm are the headliners for the event as the tour returns from a December hiatus at the par-73 Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii.
The field, which consists of only those who won on the tour last year, includes just 34 golfers after several notable winners decided to skip the no-cut event.
Top-ranked Brooks Koepka is out with a left knee injury while Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods also qualified but opted not to play, as did Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari and British Open champion Shane Lowry.
That sets the stage for Thomas to take advantage. Thomas said his goal for 2020 is to get back to the world number one ranking.
“All the motivation I need to get to number one in the world is in myself,” he said. “I don’t need to try to prove anybody wrong.
“I don’t need to do it because people said I can’t. Because I want to be there is big enough motivation for me.”
The 26-year-old Thomas, one of only 10 players in PGA history to shoot a sub-60 round, won the BMW Championship in August, finished fourth at the Safeway Open in September and won the CJ Cup in October.
Thomas also did well at the Presidents Cup in Australia last month, finishing with a record of 3-1-1, his loss coming in the singles competition.
The 2017 PGA Championship winner, Thomas has a burning desire to put together a complete season and get off to a strong start after last year was interrupted by a nagging right wrist injury.
“Yeah, I could have been a pity party and asked for more attention, but I definitely didn’t deserve anything special,” said Thomas, who has qualified for this event four of the past five years. “I mean, I hadn’t done what I had the year before and definitely not two years before that.
“Even with the injury happening, I tried to stay patient, and I was glad to see it kind of come back to how it felt at the end of the year.”
Thomas will have competition from world number three Rahm, who is the top-ranked player in the field.
Spain’s Rahm has three wins and 10 top-10s in his past 13 starts worldwide, vaulting him to a career-high ranking.
Johnson is making his first start of the 2019-20 season and has seven consecutive top-10 finishes in the event.
Defending champion Xander Schauffele overcame a five-shot deficit entering the final round last year by posting a tournament-record 62 on Sunday. He is trying to become the first player since Geoff Ogilvy (2009-10) to repeat as champion.