NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Justin Thomas walked away with the richest payoff in golf when he was runner-up at the Tour Championship and captured the FedEx Cup. With the $10 million bonus, he made $10,945,000 that day.
And then he forgot all about it.
Thomas said he was at the Presidents Cup the following week when Kevin Chappell said to him, “You get it yet?”
Thomas didn’t know what he was talking about.
“He said, ‘Did you get the bonus?’ I never even thought about it,” Thomas said. “I asked my dad to look and was like, ‘Oh, there it is.'”
What does a 24-year-old do with such a bonus?
“I maybe got a little nicer bottle of wine at dinner a couple of times,” Thomas said.
But he was generous with others. When he arrived at Albany Golf Club for the Hero World Challenge, Thomas gave caddie Jimmy Johnson a small white box. Inside was a Rolex Pearlmaster watch.
“I just wanted to do something to thank the team,” Thomas said. “He’s done a lot, and he continues to do a lot. I wanted to show that with something for him.”
Engraved on the watch was a message: “Thanks for a great 2016-17. JT.”
MASTERS SETUP: Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley found his first replacement. Jim Hyler is taking over as chairman of the competition committees and rules committee for the Masters.
That’s the role that Ridley held for 10 years until Billy Payne retired as club chairman and picked Ridley as his replacement.
“Having handled this important assignment for many years, I am aware of its necessary qualifications and, therefore, very proud to name Jim as my successor,” Ridley said. “He is uniquely qualified to serve the tournament in this position, given his background and previous experience assisting in the successful conduct of our competition.”
Hyler and Ridley are both former USGA presidents.
WAITING GAME: Patrick Reed’s wife has been reminding him to concentrate on his golf this week at the Hero World Challenge.
And she’s the one at home in Houston days away from giving birth.
Reed and his wife, Justine, are expecting their second child. The due date is Wednesday.
“It’s kind of a waiting game,” Reed said. “I’m really excited. Can’t wait for him to be here.”
Reed, a member of the PGA Tour and the European Tour, is not one to miss golf tournaments. He already has played 32 official events this year, not including the Presidents Cup. He hasn’t taken more than two weeks off all year, and he didn’t see any need to miss this one with his wife not due to give birth until Wednesday.
“She keeps reminding me that there’s golf to be played,” Reed said. “As of right now, she’s the same as she was nine months ago — still pregnant. She’s healthy. Baby’s healthy. Go out and play golf, and if I get the phone call, there will be a decision to make.
“Until then, she’s trying to keep my head focused here, on the golf tournament and not at home.”
MILESTONE FOR MICKELSON: Phil Mickelson was 23 and finishing up his first full year as a professional when he went to Japan for a pair of tournaments to end the 1993 season. He finished eighth in the Dunlop Phoenix and then was runner-up to Tom Lehman in the Casio World Open.
That was enough for Mickelson to move into the top 50 in the world ranking for the first time.
And he never left.
This week marks 24 full years that Mickelson has been among the top 50 in the world. He is the only player to achieve that. Mickelson is No. 35 this week and will not play again until the third week of January at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Mickelson has never come close to falling out of the top 50 all these years. He ended 2015 at No. 34, slipped to No. 39 without playing the first few weeks, then tied for third in the California desert and three weeks later was runner-up at Pebble Beach.
Still eluding Lefty: He has never reached No. 1.
CHEAP LESSONS: Rickie Fowler is offering golf lessons for under $10.
Fowler is working with Los Angeles-based Success Co. to launch a virtual reality coaching platform. Fowler is the first ambassador and already has three lessons on the site, along with two bonus videos in 2-D.
“It’s pretty cool,” Fowler said Tuesday. “With the virtual reality, I could be standing in a bunker and it feels like you’re standing right next to me.”
Fowler plans to cover every aspect of the swing. The lessons are geared toward golfers from age 12 to 70 and feature simple, step-by-step tips. The cost to download each is between $4.99 and $6.99.
“Rickie was the only golfer we wanted to target for Success Series and that is because of who he is on and off the course,” said Anthony Puntoriero, the CEO of Success Co. “Rickie’s brand and character has defined the new era of golfer and he is the ideal ambassador to take golf into the homes of sports fans globally. His message is infectious and he has genuine passion for helping people get better at the game.”
CUP PLAYERS: The EurAsia Cup has plenty of European players who could be auditioning for Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.
Bjorn is the captain of the matches against Asian players on Jan. 12-14 in Kuala Lumpur. The eight players who qualified and plan to play are Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Ross Fisher, Matt Fitzpatrick, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Bernd Wiesberger, Paul Dunne, Thomas Pieters, Alex Noren and Henrik Stenson. Four of them were on the European team at Hazeltine in 2016.
Bjorn used his two captain’s picks on Paul Casey and Alex Levy, who is from France. The Ryder Cup will be held outside Paris next year.
“I have assembled a team which will hopefully go out and retain the EurAsia Cup, but I also have one eye on next September and selecting Alex will give him a feeling of being part of what a team event feels like, as I know it’s very much on his mind to try and make the Ryder Cup team,” Bjorn said.
DIVOTS: Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson will be among the Americans who play in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship next month. Johnson was runner-up last year to Tommy Fleetwood. Also playing Abu Dhabi are Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson. … Justin Thomas has a special trophy room in his house. The top shelf features the Wanamaker Trophy (PGA Championship), the FedEx Cup and his Jack Nicklaus Award bronze as the PGA Tour player of the year. … Johnson has been working with a 64-degree wedge that he has in the bag this week at the Hero World Challenge.
STAT OF THE WEEK: From Kapalua in January through Sea Island in November, the PGA Tour had 120 players who shot all four rounds in the 60s without winning.
FINAL WORD: “I’m probably just as excited to watch it as you are. I just get a front-row seat to it on Thursday. But I’m also looking forward to trying to kick his (butt), to be perfectly honest.” — Justin Thomas, who will be paired with Tiger Woods at the Hero World Challenge.