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Justin Thomas not overly familiar with Valhalla, but here’s why he anticipates more PGA drama

Justin Thomas hasn’t played Valhalla Golf Club as much as people would think. Probably 10 to 15 times, says Thomas, a Louisville native who cut his teeth as a kid at Harmony Landing, in nearby Goshen, where his dad, Mike, was the head pro.

“When I played last Sunday, I was saying to my dad, I don’t think I’ve been out here in eight or 10 years,” Thomas said, before later adding, “The course hasn’t changed too much from what I remember. It’s all very right in front of you. You just hit a driver really far and really straight and hit your irons well. That seems to be the theme here.”

It’s that theme, Thomas argues, that helps explain why Valhalla has delivered some late drama in each of the previous three PGA Championships that it has hosted.

In 2014, Rory McIlroy won by a shot while three players finished within two shots. In 2000, Tiger Woods and Bob May raced ahead of the pack, though they needed a playoff to decide the winner, ultimately Woods. And in 1996, Mark Brooks topped Kentuckian Kenny Perry in extra holes while five others finished within two shots of that playoff.

“There’s not a lot of different ways to play the golf course,” Thomas explained. “For the most part you know if it’s a par 4 or 5 you’re just grabbing a driver when you get to the tee and you’re just hoping you hit the fairway, and then you’re probably going to hit somewhere between a 5- and an 8-iron into the green. I think when you give all of us very similar places to play from, you have the opportunity for more a bunched leaderboards or you don’t get maybe as much of a situation like last week. Like obviously you can; someone can run away from it.

“But history has kind of proven at this tournament that they have been pretty bunched leaderboards and it’s been very close coming down the stretch.”

Max Homa followed Thomas into the interview area and echoed some of Thomas’ thoughts.

“Really thick rough, a lot of drivers, need to be in the fairway it feels like to score,” Homa said. "... Feel like the PGA’s don’t in a way don’t have as much strategy but it tests skill a lot, like in a different way. You really need to strike the ball well. You kind of get away with it even at U.S. Opens just because it’s so hard that you the skill kind of shifts to almost a short game and a patience and a grinder mentality.”