Justin Thomas leads ‘The Masters’ after second round

Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports /

Former University of Alabama golfer, Justin Thomas tied for ‘The Masters’ lead after his Friday finish in Augusta.

Any fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide with even a smidgeon of interest in golf knows who ‘JT’ is. For those that don’t, it is Justin Thomas, former University of Alabama National Championship golfer.

For the past four years, the now 27-year-old from Louisville, KY has been one of the best golfers in the world. He made his first cut on the PGA Tour at the age of 16. Now in his sixth season on the Tour he has won 13 PGA Tour events and three European Tour events. He won his first major, the PGA Championship in 2017. He was also the Fedex Cup Champion in 2017. Thomas has led the PGA Tour in tournament winnings twice, in 2017 and 2018. Justin also won three Player of the Year Awards from the 2017 and 2020 seasons.

Apology to former Crimson Tide golfer and 1976 U.S. Open Winner, Jerry Pate, but Justin Thomas is the greatest, former University of Alabama golfer of all-time. Like Pate, Thomas is a passionate Crimson Tide fan. Justin and Nick Saban are buddies despite more than four decades difference in age.

This week, Justin Thomas is playing in his fifth Masters. He loves the Augusta National Golf Course but until this week the course held the upper hand. His best finish was 12th in 2019. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, he finished tied for 39th, tied for 22nd and tied for 17th.

When he drove away from the course, down Magnolia Lane, Friday afternoon, he was in a four-way tie for the lead at 9-under. He has a long way to go. Though he has finished two rounds, not every golfer has. If he does begin his third round still tied for the lead he will need masterful golf for 36 more holes to claim a green jacket.

Even for those not interested in the game of golf, watching Justin on the course can be a joy. He stands out, not just for his golf but for his demeanor. His passion for winning burns deep, evidence by emotions of anguish when a shot does not meet his demanding standards. Kyle Porter described Justin aptly, saying, Thomas “lives and dies with every shot.”

In a game where players hide their feelings almost as much as high-stakes Texas Hold-Em players, Justin has no time for pretense. Every good shot must be followed by another one. Every bad shot must be followed by a ‘better-than-good’ one.

In past trips to Augusta National, the greens proved too much for his putting. That is behind him. Consistently one of the best ball-strikers in the game, he can go long off the tee. Even better is his short game.

His deftness near greens was displayed Friday. On the 8th, hole, the 17th of his second round, he pulled a second shot into the Par Five. He was pin-high, in pine straw about 30 feet off the green. A sizable mound blocked his path to the green. A lofted pitch from the straw could have come up short of the mound or airmailed the green. Instead, he bumped a chip, three or four hops into and over the mound, onto the green. Purposely, his pace was gauged to use the opposite slope of the green, past the green as a backstop. The ball did as he intended, going past the pin some 12 feet before trickling back to three feet from the hole. The birdie putt took him to 8-under. It was the kind of golf shot that wins Major Championships.

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The third round of the Masters will begin mid-morning on Saturday. The third-round tee times have not been announced but Thomas will probably go off early in the afternoon. Roll Tide Justin!