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With disappointing season behind him, Justin Thomas taking more ownership of his game

As he works his way through the first slump of his decorated pro career, Justin Thomas said he is trying to take more ownership of his game.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean he is distancing himself from his swing coach and father, Mike.

Ahead of this week’s Fortinet Championship, where he is making his first tournament start in a month and with the Ryder Cup looming, Thomas clarified that he is still working with his father on his swing but is trying to be more accountable for his own performance.

“The owning and accountability is just the part that I feel like I lost a little bit in myself,” Thomas told reporters Wednesday in Napa, California. “I’ve always taken great pride in being able to adjust both in practice but also in tournament play on the run if things aren’t going well. I feel like I’ve been really good at figuring it out and making changes on the course and just tweaking and changing things until something clicks. I just feel like I lost that a little bit.

“I’m very lucky to have a team that’s very, very involved, but I just think for me, personally, they were there too often to where I became dependent on them and then I just lost all ownership, all accountability to when things were going wrong, I was looking to them to answer the questions instead of I’m the one that needs to figure it out at some point.”

Thomas learned the game from his father, a teaching pro in Kentucky, and together they’ve reached the pinnacle of the sport, with Thomas capturing two major championships, rising to No. 1 in the world and winning 15 times on the PGA Tour. This year has been a rare downturn in form for a player who is consistently among the best each season on Tour; this summer he failed to reach the FedExCup playoffs for the first time in his career (No. 71), when his previous worst finish in the last six seasons was seventh.

Though he was still ranked 32nd on Tour in strokes gained: total, Thomas saw dips in his normally peerless iron play and putting.

While working on his game Thomas said he’s trying to return to what he considers his best ball-striking years, from 2017-19, when he won nine times on Tour. He had more width and a shorter swing, creating a more consistent and repeatable action. He and his father have looked at old swing videos to get “back in those slots” on the downswing.

But it isn’t just his old swing that he wants to recreate.

Five years ago, Thomas’ father popped out on Tour only a handful of times a year, mostly at the biggest events, because he was still working at the club in Goshen.

“He can come out any and all he wants as a dad, but there’s just going to be some weeks where if things are going, I don’t necessarily need a coach, and I think that’s most of where I want things,” Thomas said. “We can exchange texts, we’ll work when we’re home and when it’s needed, but when things are great, I don’t need to have somebody there with me hitting balls or putting all the time because then it’s, like, I’m just going to end up finding something that’s not even there.”

Thomas did, however, confirm that he has parted ways with his putting coach, John Graham, after a season in which he ranked 137th on Tour in putting. Thomas and Graham had worked together since 2020.

“We had gotten to a point where everything was fundamentally or mechanically on the putting green was as good as it could get,” Thomas said. “Basically, what I told him was that he can’t go out and make the putts for me – I have to figure that out, and that’s something only I can do.

“I grew up just going out and practicing and hitting putts and figuring out how to get the ball in the hole. I didn’t necessarily care how it looked; all that mattered was getting the ball in the hole as fast as I can, and that’s more what I want to do.”

Even with his recent struggles, Thomas was still selected by U.S. captain Zach Johnson to be a part of the upcoming Ryder Cup, with Johnson citing Thomas’ combined match-play record of 16-5-3.

Thomas hasn’t played in a tournament since the Wyndham Championship in early August, so he signed up to play the opening event of the fall slate for the first time since 2020.

“I have a lot of belief in myself that I’m not as far off as I think,” Thomas said. “All it takes is one week, one stretch, one whatever you want to call it that could completely flip everything and nobody even talks or remembers it anymore.”