MEMPHIS, Tennessee – Justin Thomas sat in the chair, exhaled, then did his best to keep his eyes open. He might have just said that the media questions he asked put him to sleep. But he didn’t have the energy for humor.
A long golf course around the globe took its toll.
Thomas is one of 19 players in the field this week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational who traveled 14 time zones to get from Tokyo to Memphis after participating in the men’s Olympic golf tournament.
“I got to bed at 8:30 am [Monday] Night and I woke up at 11:30 or 11:45 [p.m.] with all my lights I didn’t even manage to turn my lights off long enough; So I was clearly exhausted, ”said Thomas, the defending champion at TPC Southwind. “I woke up in the middle of the night, I was probably up for 10 minutes. I wasn’t too pleased when my alarm went off at 6:30 am.” [a.m.]. It was fine when I was moving, but now I’m dragging myself a little. ”
Thomas is not looking for pity. It’s just the reality for high-level golfers at this time of year who played a West Coast US Open, traveled to the UK for The Open (and some also did the Scottish Open) and then returned to the US to Japan to the Olympics and are now back in America – with a tough journey ahead of us.
The fifth-placed player in the world, Thomas, posted on social media his amazement at the number of trips he has been on lately.
From July 4th, Thomas sketched his travels, which took him from West Palm Beach, Florida, via Detroit to Edinburgh for the Scottish Open; from Edinburgh to London for The Open on July 11th; from London to West Palm Beach on July 18; from West Palm Beach via Atlanta to Tokyo on July 24; and on Monday from Tokyo to Memphis.
Yes, 23,587 miles.
“After seeing this post [from Thomas] and when you see how many miles we’ve covered around the world, that’s a lot, ” said Collin Morikawa, who played the Scottish Open the week before winning the Open in England.
“I did exactly the same schedule and it’s tough. But that’s what we do. This is our job. Even though we love it so much, it challenges your body to do a great job throughout the Scottish Open week to get as much rest as possible. ”
Morikawa won The Open for his second major title and then tied fourth at the Olympics, losing a bronze medal in a playoff.
Even without the Olympics, this is already a packed schedule. With The Open, a World Golf Championship event and three FedEx Cup playoff events, there were already five major events in eight weeks. Throw in the Olympics and it’s six.
Add in the US Open four weeks before the Open, plus the fact that most players competed at least once in between, and it’s been a busy summer with intense heat – with the exception of the Open, which are even warmer – than normal weather for England.
While a WGC is a big tournament, there is at least a more relaxed atmosphere. Players don’t have to worry about missing a cut. Everyone is paid. Even so, few think of just showing up. You want to compete.
“Usually when I come back from Asia I feel totally drained. I feel dead,” said Morikawa. “But so far, knock on wood, I slept great, even when I got back from Tokyo. But I think it’s because I know I’m here to win.”
Morikawa has already had a great year (a WGC win and a big win) so he could be excused if he was ready to refuel for the playoffs this week.
For others, this is an opportunity to run away and maybe find something positive after a few struggles.
Neither Dustin Johnson nor Brooks Koepka attended the Olympics after choosing not to play. Nobody is happy with a year that came and went without a big title. Johnson had an amazing run and missed the cut in the Masters and PGA Championship. He hasn’t been a solid contender anywhere in six months.
Koepka had his moments with high placements in the PGA, US Open and The Open, but something was still missing that would have given him a fifth major.
Rory McIlroy has spent a good part of the year finding the shape that bumped him from # 1 in the world to 15th place a year ago. He won the Wells Fargo Championship in May, but there were more frustrations than triumphs.
“I think the Olympics were a big week for me because I played there with more freedom and it obviously worked out well,” said McIlroy, who was satisfied with a tie in fourth place after coming out of a playoff I played my best tournament since the US Open, which was good. That is the focus for me in the next few weeks, to play with as much freedom as possible. It really is. “
McIlory also had a hectic travel schedule and played in Scotland, England and Japan. Then he drove to South Florida for the day before flying back to Memphis on Tuesday evening.
“I feel like I’ve gotten used to it somehow,” said McIlroy, 32, who has been a pro for 13 years at Events. But it is okay. The only thing one is trying to overcome the jet lag and about that [international] Date line and come back again. That is probably the hardest part.
“As for the distance traveled, whether you spend five hours on the plane or 14 or whatever, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. As long as you get enough rest.”
Which of course is the key. There always seems to be some kind of reckoning when it comes to recovering from such a hustle and bustle. And there is not much time left, because the FedEx Cup playoffs have another three-week route ahead of them.