PGA TOUR: A Lack of Rest
Posted by: mike October 27th, 2017
By Jeff Shain
Golf Insiders contributor
Of course it had to go to a playoff.
Justin Thomas had never been involved in one, win or lose, since graduating to the PGA Tour after his lone Web.com Tour season. On a wind-whipped day on the other side of the globe, though, Thomas extended his magical 2017 a bit longer by outlasting Marc Leishman at The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.
Two extra holes gave the 24-year-old Kentucky native his fifth win of 2017 and third since his major breakthrough at the PGA Championship. Factor in the U.S. romp at the Presidents Cup, and it’s been a brilliant fall. He’s now up to No.3 in the latest world rankings.
That certainly gives him plenty of momentum to carry into this week’s WGC HSB– … no, wait.
Thomas isn’t at this week’s WGC HSBC Champions, even though Shanghai would have been a far shorter journey than his Florida home.
“I officially have nothing left in the tank at this moment,” he told reporters within minutes of his winning birdie at Nine Bridges.
It’s a theme Thomas sounded as far back as the Tour Championship, where he was crowned FedExCup champion. That was before he tried to three-peat in Malaysia. And though his circumstance may be an extreme example, he’s obviously not a lone voice.
Not only is Thomas absent from China this week, so is buddy Jordan Spieth. And Rory McIlroy. And Rickie Fowler. And Sergio Garcia – even though he also was a winner last week.
For those not keeping score, that’s half of the top 10 in this week’s rankings. It gets better after that, with 13 of the next 15 in attendance, but it’s clearly the lowest star power among the World Golf Championships series.
Even some of the guys in China are being careful to make sure their batteries are freshly charged.
“The Presidents Cup was a difficult week,” noted Hideki Matsuyama, who captured the last WGC stop at Firestone and was second at the PGA Championship but appeared fragged about halfway through the FedExCup playoffs.
“I caught a cold and wasn't feeling my best. Kind of continued on – I still wasn't feeling well at CIMB in Malaysia. But last week I was able to rest well and get refreshed.”
Henrik Stenson hadn’t been seen since the BMW Championship in Chicago, resting for this four-week stretch that continues with the European Tour’s Race to Dubai playoffs that sends him to Turkey, South Africa and Dubai.
“I’m playing four tournaments in a row all over the place,” he said, “so a lot of travel and a lot of golf coming up. And then after Dubai, I’m shutting it down for the year and getting rest.”
There’s that word again. Rest.
The Tour might want to think about building in a little more as it moves its scheduling pieces around for 2019 and beyond. For a circuit rushing to conclude the playoffs by Labor Day, it hasn’t shown a willingness to embrace an offseason.
Consider Thomas to be Exhibit A. From the start of the FedExCup playoffs, he had teed it up in seven of the past nine weeks, taking just one week off after the Presidents Cup before heading to Asia.
Go back a little further, and he played nine of 12 starting with the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Back it up a bit more, and it’s 10 of 14 going back to the Open Championship.
The cynic will say it’s just golf. It’s also 10 weeks in 10 different cities – on three continents – each for a week of 6- to 8-hour outdoor days in variable weather. Malaysia was embroiled in a heat wave; temperatures never broke 70 on Jeju Island.
And that doesn’t factor in the outside obligations.
“There’s a lot of commitments off the golf course, and it drains you,” Stenson noted.
It’s a delicate balance, something one has to monitor and tweak as years go by.
In his early days, Tiger Woods would play as many as nine times after the PGA Championship, almost always with an overseas trip built in. Over time, that was scaled back to seven, then six. He skipped out on the Tour Championship once. He stopped playing Disney, even though it was a short drive from home.
Phil Mickelson routinely shut it down after the PGA Championship, reviving only long enough to play the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup (not always well).
Spieth might have learned something after his scintillating 2015 season. He played four more events after the FedExCup playoffs, won at Kapalua, then went overseas twice more by mid-February.
Though Spieth won three times in 2016, he admitted to being drained by the end. This fall, we haven’t seen him since the Presidents Cup.
Whether he gave any cautionary advice to Thomas isn’t clear, but the new FedExCup champ is learning. On Wednesday, he was musing about a different kind of ranking.
“Gonna go ahead and say it,” he told his Twitter followers, “I have to be top 3 in the world in couch sitting. I’ve put on an exhibition these last 2 days.”
No doubt, everyone needs an offseason. Even if one has to carve out his own.
Jeff Shain is a former Orlando Sentinel golf writer, part of nearly two decades covering the sport that includes other stops at The Miami Herald and The Island Packet in South Carolina. He's also a digital contributor to PGATour.com and Pro Golf Weekly, and co-hosts the Prime Sports Golf podcast at PrimeSportsNetwork.com.