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Justin Thomas says new year brings new opportunity for everyone

The next season on the PGA Tour already has the perception of being two tours. The elite are in the $20 million signature events with a big boost in FedExCup points. The rest are playing for less money ($8.5 million on average) and having to play well to advance their stock.

But being in that top group still has to be earned.

Justin Thomas, who didn’t have an elite year, wonders why some of the rank-and-file complain about advantages for the perennially top players instead of seeking inspiration from the likes of Eric Cole and Adam Schenk.

“I think it’s the easy thing to do, honestly, to sit there and say: ‘Why me? Why is this happening to me? Why are they getting this?’” Thomas said.

Cole spent a decade on the mini-tours, finally worked his way up to the PGA Tour and finished at No. 43 in the FedExCup in his rookie season to get into all the big-money tournaments next year. He went from No. 384 to No. 41 in the world ranking and he’s headed to the Masters.

Thomas singled out Schenk. His average FedExCup position in his five years on Tour was No. 103 (his best was No. 71 in 2019). He not only qualified for the Tour Championship, he was three shots off the lead going into the second round at East Lake and tied for ninth. He’s in all the big events next year, including the four majors.

Cole and Schenk are the only two players who went from outside the top 150 in the world to the top 50 without having won a tournament. That’s how consistently well they played.

The field for the PGA Tour’s first event of 2024 in Maui, Hawaii.

Thomas, meanwhile, failed to qualify for the FedExCup postseason for the first time. He likely will get sponsor exemptions to signature events if he doesn’t earn his way back. His argument was more geared toward opportunities for everyone.

“If you would have put us side by side at the beginning of the year and said, ‘Who is going to do what?’ ... you know what I’m saying?” Thomas said, referring to Schenk.

What he meant was odds on who would have a better year would favor a two-time major champion, a past FedExCup champion previously ranked No. 1 in the world.

“But that’s the way I think so many people look at it,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Well, they are going to play in all these events.’ Or you can look at it like Adam Schenk did and say, ‘I’m going to play my way into those events.’ Eric Cole, ‘I’m going to play my way into those events.’

“Golf is a funky game,” Thomas said. “Doesn’t matter how good of a player, any accomplishments you’ve had. You can have an off year and miss the playoffs just like I did. Everybody has got to work hard and you have to earn it.”