PGA NOTES

Justin Thomas launches foundation for children, military

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Louisville native Justin Thomas is the latest PGA Tour player to launch a foundation, and it wasn't anything he threw together overnight.


"We've been talking about it the last couple of years," Thomas said. "My mom has done an unbelievable job of making sure everything was done properly. We've talked to so many other athletes, their wives, people who have run other foundations who said, 'If we had to do it over, make sure you to do this or do that.' There's no reason to do it if it's not done right."


The Justin Thomas Foundation officially launched last Wednesday in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. It featured a dinner with 544 guests and a waiting list, always a sign of support. Along with a silent auction, Thomas invited an auctioneer for other items because, he said, "I'm not very good at talking real fast to get people to donate money."


Peter Jacobsen conducted a fireside chat with Thomas, who at 25 has nine victories, a major at the PGA Championship, a FedEx Cup title and has reached No. 1 in the world. Kelley James provided the entertainment.


Thomas grew up in Louisville, where father Mike was the longtime pro at Harmony Landing.


"I wanted it to be local because of how special Louisville is to me," he said.


Thomas said the three cornerstones of the foundation would be children in need, military families and junior golf. Charities the foundation initially plans to support are the Boys and Girls Club of Kentuckiana, The First Tee of Louisville, Folds of Honor, The First Tee of Tuscaloosa, Kentucky Golf Foundation and Convoy of Hope.


The next step?


"As I said at the dinner, I need to make sure I'm playing good golf so I can help fund this thing," Thomas said with a laugh.


EARLY START


Captain Tiger Woods and part of his U.S. team can expect to be bleary-eyed at the Presidents Cup this year.


Woods announced Tuesday that his Hero World Challenge will return to the Bahamas in December and end on Saturday (Dec. 7) instead of Sunday to give him and some of the players a little extra time to get to Australia for the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.


The matches start Thursday, Dec. 12. Even leaving the Bahamas on Saturday, a charter would not arrive until Monday morning. This will be the latest the Presidents Cup has ever been played. The first time in Melbourne — 1998, the only International victory — ended on Dec. 12.


Still to be determined is who makes the teams, and who plays in the Bahamas.


The Hero World Challenge will be held the same week as the Australian Open, which was moved to the week ahead of the Presidents Cup with hopes of attracting a stronger field as it did in 2011, the second time Royal Melbourne hosted the Presidents Cup.


ONE COURSE, TWO TOURS


Meghan MacLaren of England will be playing with the men for the third time this year, even if she's not on the same golf course.


MacLaren missed the cut in the Vic Open in Australia, in which men and women competed in separate competitions for equal prize money. She was runner-up to Daan Huizing in the Jordan Mixed Open, in which players from the Challenge Tour, Ladies European Tour and Staysure Tour (Europe's 50-and-over tour) competed against each other on the same course.


Next up is the Lalla Meryem Cup on the LET in Morocco, held the same week as the Trophee Hassan II on the European Tour. The men are competing on the Red Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, while the women are playing on the neighboring Blue Course.


All players use the same driving range, practice green and players' lounge.


"Any time the men and women are in the same environment it creates a different kind of buzz for the players, because I think there's a lot of mutual respect and also enjoyment that we're all connected by creating a living through the game of golf," MacLaren said. "The more opportunities there are for women's golf to raise its profile, the more I think investment and interest in it will grow."


BACK BROTHERS


Rory Sabbatini and Brian Gay are teammates in the Zurich Classic this week, a partnership linked by bad backs and a company that helped them.


Both players have had total disc replacement surgery through Pennsylvania-based Centinel Spine. Along with being partners in fourballs and foursomes at the TPC Louisiana, the idea is to help promote solutions for spinal injury and disease.


Gay has the company's logo on his apparel and golf bag, while Sabbatini has the logo on his hat and bag.


DJ'S SUNDAYS


Hilton Head was the latest example of Dustin Johnson not getting the most out of his opportunities.


He was one shot behind going into the final round of the Valspar Championship when he failed to make a single birdie for the first time in 31 tournaments worldwide, shot 74 and tied for sixth.


He closed with a 68 and finished one shot behind Tiger Woods at the Masters, but he went 31 holes — from the 10th on Friday until the 16th on Sunday— without making a birdie on anything but a par 5.


And then in the RBC Heritage, he lost a one-shot lead going into the final round with a 77.


Johnson now is 5-4 on the PGA Tour when he has the lead going into the final round. In three of those events he failed to win, he closed with a 77 or worse. The others were a 77 in the 2017 HSBC Champions, where he lost a six-shot lead, and an 82 in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he led by three going into the final round.


Johnson shot 71 in the final round at Doral in 2011 and finished two behind Nick Watney.


PRESIDENTIAL UPDATE


Now that the Tour Championship will offer world ranking points through standard 72-hole scores, the PGA Tour has moved up by one week the deadline for players to qualify for the U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams.


The American team is based on FedEx Cup points starting with the 2017 BMW Championship (double points in the current season), while the International team is based on world ranking points accumulated from last year's Dell Technologies Championship outside Boston.


The original plan was for qualifying for eight automatic spots on both teams to end at the Tour Championship.


However, no FedEx Cup points will be available at the Tour Championship — instead, players will start at various points under par depending on their FedEx Cup ranking. But with world ranking points being available for International team players, the tour decided to end qualifying one week early at the BMW Championship.


Tiger Woods and Ernie Els then would get four captain's picks.


DIVOTS


Lucas Bjerregaard, who beat Tiger Woods in the quarterfinals of the Match Play, has taken special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. That means the Dane can have unlimited sponsor exemptions the rest of the season in his bid to get a full card. Matt Fitzpatrick of England previously took special temporary membership. That means 46 of the top 50 in the world ranking have some form of PGA Tour membership. ... Matt Kuchar has two victories and two runner-up finishes this season. The last time he had two wins and two second-place finishes was in 2013. ... The Lakewood Club in Alabama has been selected to host the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur in 2020.


STAT OF THE WEEK


Justin Thomas at the 2017 PGA Championship is the last major champion who wasn't wearing a Nike swoosh on his clothing.


FINAL WORD


"Probably about three years ago ... we didn't know how long he was going to play for because he was struggling to play five tournaments a year. So to be able to do that, it's very impressive, and we'll see where he goes from there." — Sergio Garcia, on Tiger Woods winning the Masters.

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