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Justin Thomas Seeks His Second P.G.A. Championship Victory

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TULSA, Okla. — With a father and a grandfather who were golf instructors, Justin Thomas all the time had the genes for excellence in the game. He rose to be a top junior player, appeared in a PGA Tour event while in highschool and was named the nation’s top college golfer soon afterward.

By 2017, when Thomas was 24, he won his first major golf title, the P.G.A. Championship. Nobody would have blamed the Thomas family for investing in a mammoth trophy case to accommodate all the highest prizes to return.

Thomas has won his share of tour events, but five years later, he has not added to his collection of major championships, something he has called an underachievement. “I even have not even near performed well in my entire profession in majors,” he said last month.

Friday at this 12 months’s P.G.A. Championship, Thomas was on the forefront of a surging youth movement that took control of the leaderboard on the tournament’s midpoint. Battling gusting, swirling winds on the Southern Hills Country Club, Thomas mixed patience and aggression to shoot his second consecutive three-under-par 67 and position himself among the many leaders.

Thomas has contended on the halfway mark of other major tournaments since 2017 and did not win, but he feels buoyed by a recent mind-set this season, which has been aided by a recent, experienced hand at his side in Jim Mackay, who spent 25 years as Phil Mickelson’s caddie.

“It’s still golf, so it’s pretty hard sometimes,” Thomas said after his round on Friday. “But I’m very, very happy with where every little thing is at and the mind set and the mind-set that I’m in.”

He added: “We’re halfway through this tournament, so it’s still a good distance from home.”

Mackay had occasionally caddied for Thomas in previous seasons after separating from Mickelson five years ago. Eight months ago, Thomas asked Mackay, whose nickname is Bones, to take the job full time.

“Bones is considered one of the toughest staff I’ve ever seen,” Thomas said. “He never desires to be underprepared. He desires to ensure he does every little thing he can in order that he makes it feel like we have now the most effective probability we will to win. And that’s very comforting as a player, because I even have all the religion on this planet in my caddie.”

Thomas began his round on Friday on the tenth tee and had two birdies and a bogey in his opening nine to make the turn at 4 under par for the tournament. With impressive length off the tee — he averaged 312.2 yards in driving distance Friday — he was in a position to par the difficult first two par-4 holes, which each measured greater than 480 yards long. Two more pars followed on the third and fourth holes, and on the par-5 fifth hole, he sank a 24-foot birdie putt. After three routine pars, Thomas smashed a pinpoint drive on his final hole, and his approach shot from 92 yards to the uphill, plateaued ninth green stopped nine feet from the pin. Thomas then calmly rolled in his last birdie putt.

“I’m just feeling very comfortable standing over the ball, which is a great feeling,” Thomas said. “The best way I played the last hole, I couldn’t have really drawn it up any higher. Leaving that gap wedge from the golf green just below the opening there and making that putt right in the center. That was a pleasant approach to end it.”

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