Call it potential fulfilled.
Justin Thomas entered the 2016-17 PGA Tour season as a highly touted player who had perhaps underachieved. He finishes as a major champion with five victories and the FedEx Cup to show for his efforts.
The battle for the season-long prize and its accompanying $10 million bonus came down to the final nine of Sunday’s Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club, and for a while it appeared Jordan Spieth, who entered the tournament No. 1 in the standings, might prevail for the second time in three years. But after holing out for eagle on the par-4 10th hole, Spieth played even-par golf coming home on the way to a T7 finish in the tournament, while Thomas birdied three of the last seven holes. Thomas, a 24-year-old Kentuckian, finished 660 points ahead of his junior golf pal Spieth.
By failing to birdie the par-5 18th hole, however, Thomas opened the door for another young gun to win the tournament. Xander Schauffele, a 23-year-old Californian who flashed briefly to prominence with a top-five finish at this year’s U.S. Open, got up and down for birdie at 18 to edge Thomas by a shot and take home nearly $1.6 million of his own. With his first PGA Tour victory, Schauffele marked himself a future star.
Across the Atlantic, Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard, who entered the Portugal Masters in danger of losing his European Tour card, scored his first victory on the circuit, thanks in part to a Sunday 65. And in Spain, three-time Solheim Cup player Azahara Muñoz successfully defended her crown in the Ladies European Tour event staged on her home course.