World No1 Justin Thomas shows his rise to domination is no surprise

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Justin Thomas became golf’s new number one on Sunday, ending fellow American Dustin Johnson’s 64-week reign atop the world rankings.

The Kentucky man finished T11 at the Players Championship at Sawgrass and with Johnson’s T17 finish, it was enough for the 25-year-old to leapfrog him and become the seventh American in history to reach the pinnacle of the rankings.

Thomas may not be a household name like Jordan Spieth, Rory McIroy or Johnson, but his rise to domination is no surprise.

His trajectory as an amateur always pointed to this, winning the Haskins Award – accolade for the most outstanding collegiate golfer – as a freshman at 19 and central to Alabama’s national championship win in 2013. His talent was always comparable to best friend Spieth, but the Texan’s breakthrough came quicker with three major wins by just 23.

But for all the slow signs of progress on the world stage, Thomas finally rose to prominence after chalking his first win at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in 2015. He maintained his level of consistency and class and jumped from 33rd to third in the rankings over a 15-month period from September 2016 to December 2017.

He did drop to third at the start of this year but victory at the Honda Classic followed by a runners-up finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship moved him to second.

In 38 tournaments since September 2016, Thomas has won seven times, including a FedEX Cup play-off win and his first major at the PGA Championship in August 2017, where he joined the likes of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and McIlroy as the youngest winners at 23. Illustrious company to be in for a rising star of the game.

Thomas (l) with Spieth (r).

Thomas (l) with Spieth (r).

While Woods has inspired a generation of stars including Spieth and McIlroy, it’s Thomas who has emerged as the influential figure of that group this year and is showing no signs of slowing down.

In the 2017-18 season, Thomas has two victories and five top-10 finishes in 13 starts (with his worst finish a T22 at the Tour of Champions in January), and leads the tour’s FedEx Cup points standings.

With 1,874 points, defending champion Thomas holds a 341-point advantage over Jason Day, with Tiger Woods being the only other player to secure back-to-back FedEX Cups.

He can drive the ball an average of 312 yards, has swagger, confidence, big power game, clutch putting gene and plenty of time to shine.

If he could improve anything it would be driving accuracy – he is 144th this season at 57.74 per cent – but given he unleashes it so far down the fairway, he’s usually able to make the greens anyway (green in regulation is 69.44 per cent at 22nd).

Other areas where he excels on the PGA Tour list are in score average (69.314), eagles (72.0) and birdies (4.48) where he is ranked second, fourth and fifth respectively.

In terms of missed cuts, he has only missed the cut once in 25 tournaments, something that underlines the consistency in his short and long game and his sparkling putting ability.

Thomas win the PGA Championship trophy.

Thomas win the PGA Championship trophy.

Johnson’s reign at No1 may have been the longest since Woods in 2010, but for the long term, Thomas’ status at the top is not assured with World No2 Spieth breathing down his neck and set to compete in two events before he plays next.

Thomas plans to return to action at the Memorial in Ohio on May 28 with the biggest challenge being how he backs up his position as the best player in the game.

Incredibly, McIlroy, Day and Spieth didn’t last more than two weeks at No1 the first time they achieved the feat.

It will be interesting to see how Thomas controls the pressure that world No1 brings and the criticism when things go wrong, but based on how he carries himself around the course, he is a composed figure with a quality game and steely confidence.

With the depth of talent coming through in the sport, he will need to win a few more competitions to stay ahead of Spieth and Jon Rahm but for any promising prospect, there’s nothing like a real pressure test to elevate them to one of the game’s greats.

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Scotland's Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa lights up UAE sports awards

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Top resort: The Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa

Over four hundred guests attended the 2018 Sports Industry Awards (SPIAs) celebrating the best sporting achievements in the UAE over the last twelve months.

The event, in its 6th year, attracted global attention, including that of chief sponsor – Scotland’s Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa.

The five-red star hotel, recognised as one of Europe’s leading resorts, features 144 rooms including 35 suites and sits on Scotland’s West Sands Beach, surrounded by the world’s finest golf courses.

The venue also has its very own championship golf course. Phyllis Wilkie, Sales Manager – Sport, at the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa, told Sport360, “The Duke’s is highly regarded as one of the finest heathland championship courses in the British Isles and a must-play course for any golfer. Its style ranks alongside the great inland challenges, which demand accuracy and inventive play. With five separate tee positions at every hole, The Duke’s has the flexibility and challenge to appeal to golfers at every level, with the venue being chosen to host the 2014 International European Amateur Championship, one of the four majors in the world of amateur golf”.

Reflecting on the partnership with the Dubai-based event Wilkie added, “Attending the SPIAs was a great chance for us to meet and network with people in the industry. As a business, attending the event offered us the perfect opportunity for reaching some very special people in the UAE”.

Clubhouse: 9th hold on the Duke's

Clubhouse: 9th hole on the Duke’s

St Andrews, which has played host to the British Open Golf Championship, is a world-renowned golfing Mecca, where players flock from around the globe to visit. Golfers come to the sacred home of the sport to sample the unique atmosphere and historic coastal setting. Due to overwhelming demand, the Old Course runs a daily ballot for the highly coveted tee times. However the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa, which enjoys a unique location on the 17th Road Hole of this famous course, offers exclusive, guaranteed, tee-off times for its guests thanks to the Suite Golf Package with prices starting from £2,950 (Dh14,650). Visit www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk

Suite Golf Package includes:

  • Four-night stay in a luxury suite
  • Full Scottish breakfast each morning
  • One 50-minute custom massage or facial per person
  • Three course dinner on one evening in Sands Grill
  • Three course dinner on one evening in Road Hole Restaurant
  • One round of golf on Old Course plus New, Jubilee or Castle course
  • One round of golf on Kingsbarns Course including transfer
  • One round of golf on the Duke’s Course including buggy

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Dubai-based Dominic Foos is swinging his way to greater heights

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Dominic Foos is relishing the challenges he has in front of him as sets his sights on the European Tour but first the Challenge Tour is his major goal for now.

The 20-year-old Dubai-based professional golfer moved to the UAE three-and-half years ago where he practices at the Els Club and lives near-by in Sports City.

Originally from Karlsruhe outside Stuttgart in Germany, Foos is enjoying life in the Middle East as he competes in his fourth season on the Challenge Tour – the second-tier men’s professional golf tour in Europe.

“Dubai is a great place, you’ve got people from all over the world. The main reason for me moving here in 2014 was to be have a good base and be central,” he said.

“I‘m travelling all the time during the summers so Dubai helps me to prepare well. I’ve developed great friendships at the Butch Harmon School and I really enjoy it over there.”

When Foos first burst on to the professional scene in 2014, he tasted victory within his first months, making him the youngest ever winner on Challenge Tour at 17 years, 347 days.

It was easy for some to have unrealistic expectations so early, but in his 50 tournaments since, he has yet to win but two second place finishes has added some gloss to his achievements.

“I feel like it’s a hard experience. I haven’t won a tournament in three years. This experience has helped me to be ready. But I know what I have to work on to get on the European Tour,” Foos said.

“The key to my game is driving. If I hit the fairways it will be a good tournament. My putting is good. Even a bad putting day is good. If you position off the tee, it is key. I’ve noticed it for me it works.

In his three competitions this season, Foos has showed gradual improvements, with his most recent finish his best yet.

A T17 result at the Turkish Airlines Challenge last week was his highest finish in over eight months with promising signs to show his game finally coming together.

He finished T108 at the Barclays Kenyan Open on March 25 and followed it up with a 75th place finish at the Yunnan Open in China two weeks ago.

It’s just an insight into the heavy workload of a professional with each week offering a different setting but the same motivation but not the same result.

“I’ve figured out, for me to effective I can’t play more than four tournaments in a row. I need a break for a week to be fresh and start again and recover,” he said.

The Challenge Tour is tougher than ever with a constant flood of talented youngsters coming through with the ambition of getting on the European Tour.

With only 100 cards available on the European Tour each season, a player needs to finish in the top five on the Challenge Tour to win membership to the European Tour the following season.

At 20, he has plenty of time on his side but there is always that burst to make it to the top as quick as he can on a demanding circuit.

“I want to win the Challenge Tour to get on the European Tour. I am focusing on the process. I know to achieve that I have to hit the fairways, that’s number one priority,” he said.

“The tour has gotten really strong. My game has got better. I’m still making mistakes that I’m learning from which is costing me a lot.

“I know though if I hit the fairways, I can hit birdies. The goal for every player is to be contention and be in the final round of the tournament and figure things out from there.”

*Foos was recently named on ISM’s ‘Class of 18’ programme, which supports three different prospects every year. It is the third instalment of the scheme and last year was its most successful yet, with Matt Wallace and Clement Sordet winning three times between them and graduating from the Challenge Tour to the 2018 European Tour.

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