2022 PGA Championship: Justin Thomas getting game in 'shape' for St Andrews

No matter what happens over the weekend - and he’s feeling quietly confident about claiming a second PGA Championship - Justin Thomas feels his game is literally going to be in good shape for the 150th Open at St Andrews in July.

Justin Thomas and his caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay weigh up a shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.
Justin Thomas and his caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay weigh up a shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

In blowy conditions at Southern Hills in Tulsa – the greens hadn’t been cut overnight due to the forecast - the American produced a masterclass in golf ball control as he carded a second successive 67 to reach the halfway stage in the season’s second major sitting on six-under-par.

As the wind dropped later in the day, Will Zalatoris carded a bogey-free 65 to storm into the lead on nine-under, one ahead of Chiles’s Mito Pereira, who lit up his second major appearance with a 64.

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That was eclipsed by two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, who equalled the lowest score in this event with a 63 and wasn’t far away with an attempt on the last to join Branden Grace as the only player to sign for a 62 in a major.

World No 1 and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler suffered a rare disappointment in 2022 as he missed the halfway cut in the season's second major. Picture: Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

Rory McIlroy, the overnight leader, sits on four-under after a 71, which came in the company of Tiger Woods, who dug deep for a 69 that saw him make the cut again on three-over.

Thomas, the 2017 winner, is hoping to use his strong start as a springboard to get his hands back on the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday, but, at the same time, he already has one eye on that trip to Fife later this year.

“I think it's definitely more important some weeks than others,” said Thomas of his shot-shaping skills. “You get to a place like a Palm Springs where the wind doesn't blow and the greens are pretty soft, it's just see pin, hit pin and go from there.

“But, especially in a couple months when we get to St Andrews, I would like to think and hope that that's going to be pretty useful, and being able to get some balls not necessarily close to the hole but around the hole.

Justin Thomas, right, shakes hands with Dustin Johnson at the end of the second round in Oklahoma. Picture: Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

“But that's a long way away, and we're just hoping that what I'm doing here just continues to work for this course.”

Working brilliantly in tandem with his experienced caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, Thomas signed for four birdies, including a walk-in one from around 10 feet to finish, in his second circuit.

His 134 total equalled his best opening 36-hole score in a major, having also reached the halfway stage on that mark when finishing joint-sixth in this event in 2018.

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“Yeah, very pleased,” said Thomas of his work so far in Oklahoma. “Although I played solid yesterday, I played really, really well today. The conditions were obviously very difficult.

“I stayed very patient, tried to get in my own little world and get in a zone and just tried to execute each shot the best I could. I felt we did a great job of that and am glad to have a good round to show for it.”

Thomas had talked about perhaps too much pressure on himself in majors in recent years. What’s changed so fat this week. “I don't know,” he replied. “It's golf, so it's pretty hard sometimes. I mean, I like this golf course. I feel like I'm playing well. We're halfway through so it's still a long way from home.

“But I'm very, very pleased with where everything is at and the frame of mind and state of mind that I'm in. Just need to try to maintain that the best that I can and keep trying to play good golf.”

Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay, the two players in the same group as Thomas, didn’t produce much of that over two days as they missed the cut, as did world No 1 and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler.

Looking almost unbeatable as he racked up four title triumphs in six starts earlier in the year, Scheffler was brought crashing back to earth as he stumbled home in 40 for a 75 that left him alongside former world No 1 Johnson (73) and Scot Russell Knox (73).

As for FedEx Cup champion Cantlay, he’s really gone off the boil, as was clearly evident in rounds of 76 and 75.

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Two-time winner Brooks Koepka and fellow major champion Shane Lowry both reached the halfway stage sitting on two-over, though they did so in contrasting fashion

Koepka started the second day outside the top 100 after an opening 75, but, digging deep to avoid an early exit, it was more like it from the American as he bounced back with a gutsy 67.

“I putted really well,” he said, though it would have been a better day’s work if he’d been able to convert a short par putt at his closing hole.

“Short game is right where it should be. Chipping it well, putting it well and that’s what kind of saved me today. If you get out of position in the rough, it's quite difficult to play this place.”

On the greens not being cut, he added: “They're definitely slower. They can't get that fast anyway just because they're pretty slopey, but I don't think these green surfaces are the smoothest to begin with.

“And then after not mowing them you see a little of a trample effect and everything, so it'll be nice to have some fresh greens this weekend.”

In contrast, Lowry, having opened with a 70, had made a thrust up the leaderboard after going out in two-under before coming home in 39, which included a double-bogey 6 at the fourth.

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Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick, who had been tipped by many to be in the mix this week, backed up his opening 68 with an equally-impressive 69 to sit just three shots behind Thomas. “Really, really happy,” said Fitzpatrick. “Just got to build on it tomorrow, and yeah, looking forward to it.”

Maintaining his splendid form this year, it was also so far, so good for Irishman Seamus Power as he matched Fitzpatrick’s second-day score to sit on one-under, three better than US Open champion Jon Rahm after he also signed for a 69. "Could have been one or two better here or there, but, overall, not too bad,” said Power of his endeavours so far.

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