It was a heart-in-mouth moment for everyone watching, but how was Justin Thomas feeling on the 72nd hole of the Players Championship?
Guess What Made Justin Thomas’ Heart Rate Peak During Players Win
No matter how great a lead you have, navigating the final three holes at TPC Sawgrass to win a Players Championship is never easy.
Individually, they are among the most dangerous in the game. Put them together and you have Pete Dye’s recipe for disaster we all tune in to watch every year.
We’ve seen many of the world’s best players come unstuck when in contention, but no such fate befell this year’s champion, Justin Thomas.
You’d be forgiven for thinking it came easy on Sunday for the 27-year-old. After all, were it not for a few inches on the 18th, he would have done what no player has done before him: hit every green in regulation in the final round.
However, there were a few heart-pumping moments along the way. Most notably when his tee shot on the 72nd hole looked certain to find the water on Sawgrass’ climactic finisher.
In the past, we could only guess as to how incidents like this affected the pros – just watching is enough to make us mere mortals quake with fear – but in this new digital age we live in, assigning a measurable figure to a facial expression is now possible.
And thanks to the good people at Whoop, we are able to pinpoint exactly when and where Thomas was feeling it the most, and it makes for compelling reading.
So let’s start with Sunday.
It’ll come as no surprise that this was his most strenuous day. Out of a total score of 21, Thomas’ Whoop strain reached 16.4 compared to the 13-14 range he operated in the three days prior.
This data is derived from a person’s elevated heart rate and quantifies things beyond physical exertion like the stress and intensity of trying to win one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world.
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And within this physically exerting final round performance, there were two moments in particular that got Thomas going.
The first came on the par-5 11th. Despite his brilliant play to that point, the American stood on the tee just one under for the day but was riding the momentum of back-to-back birdies.
Two exquisite shots to the green left little under 11 feet for eagle, and after rolling it in to the approval of a limited gallery, his heart rate rose to 125 beats per minute.
However, for a different reason entirely, this was eclipsed on the final hole.
As the 27-year-old’s bold tee shot swung violently from right to left and made a beeline for the water, his heart rate soared once again until it reached a whopping 138bpm.
As we all know, his ball inexplicably remained on dry land, allowing Thomas to regain his composure and clinch his 14th PGA Tour title and first Players Championship by a shot from Lee Westwood.
But there’s more to winning than just what we see on the course. Believe it or not, key to his impressive victory was how well he slept.
For those who don’t know, Whoop is a wearable fitness device that tracks everything from your exercise to the quality of your sleep and enables the wearer to maximise their performance levels in order to reach their specific goals.
So, other than being one of the best players in the world, Thomas was able to produce when it mattered because he got more than three hours of restorative REM (rapid eye movement) sleep each night of the tournament.
In particular, his recovery overnight from Friday into Saturday was his best at 84 per cent and he went out and shot an eight-under-par 64. Coincidence? I think not.
To further illustrate, the table below charts the World No. 2’s strain and recovery levels across the four tournament days and in the run-up to the event. It’s notable that how well recovered he was correlates directly with the scores posted each round.
In the highly competitive landscape of professional golf where winning and losing often comes down to the smallest of details, it’s little wonder more and more of the best players in the world are putting their trust in Whoop.