Justin Thomas hopeful that caddie Jimmy Johnson can return at Riviera


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jimmy Johnson is itching to get back on Justin Thomas’ golf bag and could return at the Genesis Open in two weeks.

Thomas said Wednesday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open that he talked to Johnson on the phone on Tuesday. The veteran looper, who has been out with a right-foot injury since re-aggravating it during the second round at Kapalua, told Thomas that he felt like he was ready to return this week.

Thomas, though, decided to give Johnson some more rest, opting instead to have putting coach Matt Killen assume caddie duties this week at TPC Scottsdale.

“He said he probably could have gone this week, but he didn’t have an option,” Thomas said. “I told him he wasn’t allowed to caddie this week, just because I didn’t want him rushing back. I want him back to 100 percent starting whenever he starts. I told him, whether it’s L.A. or it’s Match Play or Masters, whatever it is, I just, I didn’t want him coming back too soon and then having to take another month off.”

Johnson first injured the foot at the CIMB Classic in October. He tried to tough it out at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but Thomas’ father, Mike, had to take over as caddie for the final two rounds. Jim “Bones” Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s former bagman, caddied for Thomas at the Sony Open.

Thomas said that Johnson is out of his walking boot and has been going through therapy every day. Johnson also recently had a cortisone shot.

“Sounds like he’s going to be good to go for L.A.,” Thomas said, “so it’ll be good to have the man back.”

As for this week, Thomas feels comfortable with Killen on the bag. Thomas said Killen is more than just his putting coach; he’s his friend, as well, as the two hang out quite a bit, including attending the Kentucky Derby together last year.

“He’s caddied for me a couple times, so it’s something I’m comfortable with,” Thomas said. “I would never ask somebody to caddie if I wasn’t comfortable or didn’t think that I had a chance to win with them. So it will be fun. In terms of for a putting coach-student-type thing, I think it will be very productive for us, because there’s a lot of things I’m going to do differently on the putting green in practice than I do in tournaments, so he may be able to pick up on those things, which could be huge and very influential in terms of the rest of the year. So hopefully there’s not, because that means I’m putting well. But if not, or if there’s something he sees that we can work on, then that will be good to know. But it will be fun.”

Plus, the last time Killen caddied for Thomas? The 2015 John Deere Classic. Thomas finished T-5.

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