Life, as always, comes at you fast.
Justin Thomas is two months removed from losing a presumably very lucrative contract with Polo and Ralph Lauren over an ill-considered muttering that was caught by a hot microphone:
The Ralph Lauren Corporation is cutting ties with golfer Justin Thomas over his use of a homophobic slur.
Thomas has apologized for the incident, which occurred at a PGA Tour tournament in Hawaii last Saturday. "There's no excuse," he said. https://t.co/qOGDejWuOP
— CNN (@CNN) January 16, 2021
The reaction, as you may have already guessed, was measured and compassionate:
Titleist, Footjoy, Polo, Citi, NetJets, Woodford Reserve and Beats need to all drop him and the @PGATOUR needs to suspend @JustinThomas34 immediately just like what happened to @KyleLarsonRacin
— Cornbread aka Chris (@Cornbre52425951) January 10, 2021
Life also loves to pour salt into open wounds. Thomas is five weeks past losing his grandfather, one of the most resonant influences on his professional golf career:
Justin Thomas is playing with a heavy heart today @WMPhoenixOpen.
His grandfather passed away Saturday evening.
Paul Thomas influenced Justin’s love and passion for the game.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 7, 2021
The thing about transcendent talents, though, is that they can be kept down in the short term, but after time heals the wounds, look out:
"I wish I could talk to him, but I know he's watching."@JustinThomas34 gets emotional when asked about his late grandfather after winning @THEPLAYERSChamp. pic.twitter.com/FoHTtOh2QU
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 14, 2021
In retrospect, did Ralph Lauren pull the trigger on Thomas too fast? Thomas isn’t a player who has a long history of indifference to honor like Patrick Reed or even the sort of wildly checkered history that Tiger Woods brings to his sponsors.
Thomas, rather, appears to be a genuinely decent young man with an almost limitless future (he’s only 27) who said something he should not have said.
In America today, the trigger to cancel anyone who does or says anything that could CONCEIVABLY hurt someone’s feelings has the safety off.
So give credit to Justin Thomas, who could have been excused for running and hiding – after having the strength to put his recent past behind him – and instead went on to win the most important PGA Tour event that isn’t one of the four majors.
Ralph Lauren will be fine, of course, but maybe tonight he will realize that his trigger finger was just a shade too quick.