Amid Controversy, Justin Thomas Set to Tee it up at Abu Dhabi

Amid controversy and questions about his character, Justin Thomas is back on the golf course. 

Thomas will tee it up at Abu Dhabi this week for the European Tour’s HSBC Championship alongside Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy. 

Justin Thomas’ 2021 is off to a rough start PHOTO: Justin Thomas/Instagram

This comes two weeks after Thomas used a homophobic slur after missing a par putt at the Tournament of Champions. 

Just a few days later, Thomas’ top sponsor, Ralph Lauren, dropped him. 

“Obviously I was upset. But at the end of the day, they have that right. They had to make the decision that they had to make. They are a huge, huge global brand, and I have to respect their decision. I put them in a terrible position. I just was more upset. I had a great relationship with a lot of people there. But I totally respect their decision, and I’ve moved on from it. This is an opportunity for me to grow, although I felt like it was something we could have done together and gone through that process. They just felt like they needed to move on. That’s exactly what I’m doing as well,” said Thomas during his pre tournament press conference. 

To this point, none of Thomas’ other sponsors, including FootJoy, Titleist, NetJets and Citi, have dropped him. 

Thomas did acknowledge that he has had conversations with them over the last several days. 

“It was obviously not calls or e-mails I was hoping or planning to make, but I needed to because I have some great long-lasting partnerships with all my sponsors. They know that’s not the person that I am. They know that’s not how I act and although they are far from brushing it to the side, just like I am, they understand that this is an opportunity for me to educate myself, grow, become a better person. I know that I’ll become a better man and a better person because of it. And they are going to kind of help me along that process,” Thomas said. 

However, Thomas refused to address what he was going to do in the future to better himself. 

“Although the mistake wasn’t a personal level, what I’m doing for myself is personal. Obviously, people are going to be part of that process, but what I’m doing I’d like to keep internally and just go through the appropriate steps to get where I need and want to be, to where people understand that’s not the person I am, not the character I like to portray. But, like I said, that’s stuff that I feel I’d like to keep it at a personal level and go through the necessary steps.”

There will be no fans at the event this week, but it will be interesting to see how Thomas plays and where his mind is with everything going on. 

For obvious reasons, his clothing choice will also be something to keep and eye on, given he lost Ralph Lauren. 

Golf Channel picks up coverage at 10 p.m. eastern time. 

McIlroy Stands by Thomas 

One person on Tour that is standing by Thomas is McIlroy. 

The two stars have become good friends over the years and even travel to tournaments together on occasion. 

“I think Justin has already responded really, really well. I think he realized he made a big mistake as soon as it was brought to him. He completely owned up to it. He said he messed up and that he’s going to try to be better. And Justin is true to his word. He will be,” said McIlroy.  

Rory McIlroy PHOTO: Tour Pro Golf Clubs/Flickr Commons

The four-time Major Champion added, “I’ve gotten to know Justin really well, and he is as good a guy as they come. He’s got a lot of integrity, a lot of character. Obviously it doesn’t make what he said any better, but you know, I think in this day and age, it’s hard because it seems like you’re not allowed to make a mistake anymore. Any mistake gets jumped on. Look, he made a mistake; he owned up to it, and he’ll be better because of it. He’ll maybe not be as ignorant to things that will, I’m trying to think of the right word here, offend people, I guess. What he said was obviously offensive to a large portion of the population. But, again, he’ll be better for it. He’ll learn and he’ll move on. And he’ll be just as good a golfer as he’s always been. If anything, it will probably just make him a better person than he already is, which is hard because he’s already a great guy.”

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