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Dublin: 9°C Thursday 22 April 2021

Justin Thomas sees path to personal growth after homophobic slur furore

The golf star apologised for the remarks made earlier this year.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

JUSTIN THOMAS says he has found a path for personal growth after his season was plunged into controversy earlier this year following his use of a homophobic slur.

As second-ranked Thomas prepared to tee off in Thursday’s opening round of the 85th Masters, he pondered what he has learned off the course as well as his chances to win a green jacket.

“Everything happens for a reason and I had a very difficult time understanding what that reason was,” Thomas said Tuesday.

“But trying to look at it as a positive and understand that I have a great chance to not only better myself but better people around me, I feel like I’ve been on a great path for that.”

Thomas was defending his title at the US PGA Tournament of Champions at Hawaii in January when he uttered a homophobic insult after missing a putt that was picked up by a television microphone.

Thomas apologised, calling his remark inexcusable. He was dropped by sponsor Ralph Lauren. Since then, the 27-year-old American has made efforts to redeem himself and learn from the controversy his comment aroused.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself, just having a lot of uncomfortable conversations,” he said. “I have to do a lot of stuff — I don’t have to do, I’m choosing to do a lot of stuff behind the scenes because clearly I needed to grow as a person.

“It’s just a part of life. Doesn’t matter if I made a mistake as bad as that or if I hurt someone in my family’s feelings or made a mistake on the golf course.

“Everybody in this room is trying to learn and grow throughout their progression as characters, as individuals. And I unfortunately put myself in a situation where my route was a lot different route than I had seen it going, but that was the route now that I have.”

Thomas, whose lone major title came at the 2017 PGA Championship, sees golf’s growth during the Covid-19 pandemic, as a relatively safe outdoor activity, as a sign the sport is welcoming to a diverse group.

“It has been great for everyone to understand how great the game of golf is and how welcoming it is to people, all races,” he said.

Reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau said diversity and inclusion were important in golf and the wider world.

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“It’s incredibly important,” DeChambeau said. “I think the most important thing we can do is treat everyone equally.”

Lee Elder, the first black player in the Masters, will be a one-time ceremonial starter on Thursday alongside multiple Masters winners Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

“I think Lee hitting the first tee shot is going to be amazing,” said DeChambeau. “There are a lot of great opportunities that have come around for Augusta National and the PGA Tour to change the light of everything and make it a shining light in the darkness right now.”

Another trailblazing star, 15-time major winner and five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods, will not play this week. He is still recovering from serious leg injuries suffered in a February car crash.

© – AFP, 2021 

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