DUBLIN, OHIO – In the hours after the Players Championship ended and it became official that Justin Thomas would supplant Dustin Johnson atop the world ranking, he stayed up late enough to see it for himself.
Thomas had been flying home to South Florida when he learned that Johnson’s T17 finish put an end to his 64-week run at No. 1 in the world. He considered going to sleep and checking the rankings website on Monday morning but temptation got the best of him.
“I ended up staying up late enough to where I waited to refresh it and saw it, and it was pretty cool. Seeing every other golfer in the world behind my name is, was a pretty fun thing,” said Thomas, who is making his first start at No. 1 this week at the Memorial Tournament.
Did he take a screenshot of the new ranking?
“Why wouldn’t you?” Thomas said.
The screenshot may be the most tangible evidence of Thomas’s No. 1 ranking because there is no formal ceremony that comes with it.
“It’s odd because nothing comes with it. Like when you win a tournament, you win, you get a trophy, you get a lot of money, you do a press conference afterwards,” Thomas said.
Becoming No. 1 means answering questions about whether it feels different when you are officially the best player in the world.
Rory McIlroy has been there and knows what it feels like. Asked about the pressure that comes with being No. 1 during his Wednesday pre-tournament press conference, McIlroy spied Thomas standing in the back of the interview room.
“I think it’s really hard to try and play as a world No. 1. I think it’s really difficult. I mean you got so much pressure on your shoulders. I mean there’s a bull’s-eye on your back, it’s just really tough,” McIlroy said, trying to suppress a smile as he looked at Thomas.
“There’s a reason JT is No. 1 in the world. It’s because he’s been playing great golf and I think that as long as when you’re No. 1 in the world, the demands on your time are a little bit more, and as long as you don’t forget what got you to that point (you’re fine). He’s great, he practices hard and he does all the right things, so he’s not going to forget that, but you’ve just got to manage your time a little bit better and find the time to stay there.
“It’s a great feeling, I mean knowing that you’re walking onto the range or walking to a golf tournament (as) the No. 1 player in the world.”
And what about the guy who was No. 1 and now finds himself at No. 2?
“I definitely would like to get back there, just as much as I wanted to get there the first time,” Johnson said.