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US PGA Championship: Justin Thomas to watch Leeds United play-off after opening round

image source, Getty Images

image caption, Justin Thomas has dropped to 31st in the world rankings after a few inconsistent years

  • Author, Peter Scrivener
  • Role, Senior BBC Sport journalist

Justin Thomas will turn his attention from his bid for a third US PGA Championship title to watch Leeds United’s play-off semi-final when he completes his opening round on Thursday.

The American is a minority investor in the English Football League club, who host Norwich City at Elland Road in the second leg of the Championship play-offs.

Thomas will play the first round game at Valhalla in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky at 12.53pm BST, with the Leeds game kicking off at 8pm.

“I’m really pleased with my game on Thursday – which worked beautifully,” said the 31-year-old, who won the US PGA in 2017 and 2022.

Thomas and good friend Jordan Spieth became investors last summer after being turned on to Leeds fans by English golfer Matt Fitzpatrick’s caddy, Billy Foster.

“We’ve definitely gotten a lot closer over the last year and he’s given us a lot of information and knowledge in terms of Leeds and he’s been sending us videos of games,” Thomas said.

“I love the fact that he plays at Elland Road. I know they’re a tough team to beat over there, so I’m excited to see.”

Leeds, who had failed to win promotion in all five of their previous play-off attempts, drew the first leg 0-0 at Carrow Road.

The winner will face West Bromwich Albion or Southampton at Wembley for a place in the Premier League.

Thomas was at Valhalla as a seven-year-old fan when Tiger Woods won the US PGA in 2000. He had turned pro by the time he returned in 2014 but missed qualifying.

“Watching Tiger here in person in 2000 is a big part of my love for professional golf and the desire to win majors and golf tournaments,” he said.

“Obviously I don’t remember much, being seven years old. But just hearing the roar — you’re on one side of the course, you hear it on the other side of the course — it’s pretty cool to hear.

“The way it all ended and me being a Tiger fan, it was as perfect a week as I could have imagined.”

To have a perfect week this week, Thomas will need to find the form that lifted him to the 2022 US PGA title at Southern Hills.

He was ranked fifth in the world after his second major triumph but is now 31st and enduring another inconsistent season on the PGA Tour, with three top-10s in 2024 offset by three missed cuts in his last seven events.

In seven majors since his win, Thomas has missed four cuts and failed to finish in the top 35 in the other three.

He can expect huge support at home though.

“I played nine holes with him (Monday),” said Spieth, the Ryder Cup teammate who has won the Open, US Open and Masters and is aiming to become the sixth player to complete a career Grand Slam.

“It felt different. There has already been an enormous amount of support for him and I know it will continue as the week goes on.

“If there is one tournament this year that he would like to win, it would be this one and it would be one of the greatest moments of his life.”