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March 17, 2021

Green Recoveries Help Fuel Justin Thomas’ Players Championship Win

Justin Thomas earned the 14th PGA Tour victory of his career with a dramatic win at the Players Championship. His WHOOP data shows he was primed for a peak performance.

By Mark Van Deusen

This past weekend, Justin Thomas pulled off one of the greatest comebacks ever at the Players Championship, which features arguably the PGA Tour’s most competitive field and is often referred to as golf’s unofficial 5th major. Trailing by 7 strokes with 36 holes to go, Thomas shot 12 under par over the tournament’s last two days to finish at -14 and earn a 1-stroke victory.

We break down Thomas’ strain and recovery data leading up to the final round of the tournament, as well as his heart rate during a few of its defining moments.

 

Balanced Strain & Recovery

In the week prior to the Players Championship, Thomas made clear efforts to ensure his body was not enduring a greater workload than it could handle.

The graphic below shows his daily strain (cardiovascular exertion on a 0-21 scale) and recovery (how prepared your body is to take on strain, from 0-100% and categorized as red, yellow or green). By keeping his strain in line with his recovery each day, Thomas enabled himself to be well rested and primed to perform when it mattered most.

Justin Thomas' daily strain and recovery, tracked by WHOOP, prior to and during his win at the Players Championship.

Justin Thomas’ strain (blue) and recovery (yellow/green) were in perfect balance heading into the Players Championship, with his recovery peaking as he took home the title.

You can see above that Thomas’ recovery was trending in the right direction heading into the tournament. However, what really stands out is that it didn’t peak at the start of the Players Championship, but rather towards the finish.

 

Slow Start, Big Finish, Green Recoveries & Great Sleep

On Day 1 of the tourney, Thomas’ recovery was in the yellow at 62%. He shot a 1-under-par 71. Thomas was 77% recovered (green) on Day 2, but was sitting at 1 over par through the first 9 holes. At that moment he was behind the cut line and was in serious danger of making an early exit from the tournament.

However, Thomas shot 3 under on the back 9 to end the day 2 below par after a second straight 71. He was still 7 strokes off the lead.

Saturday, Day 3, Thomas awoke with an 84% recovery, his best of the weekend. He then played his best round of the weekend as well, shooting an 8-under 64 to end the day at -10.

After waking up with an 84% WHOOP recovery, Justin Thomas shot an 8-under 64 on the Saturday of his Players Championship win.

After waking up with an 84% WHOOP recovery, Justin Thomas shot an 8-under 64 on the Saturday of his Players Championship win.

On Sunday Thomas’ recovery was green for the third day in a row, 77%. Part of what allowed his body to maintain such favorable recovery despite high levels of strain was exceptionally good-quality sleep. Thomas got 3+ hours of restorative REM sleep each night of the tournament (people generally spend roughly 20-25% of their time asleep in REM).

 

Heart Rate & Strain of Intense Final Round

The last day of the tournament was by far the most strenuous for Thomas. His strain hit 16.4 on Sunday after being in the 13-14 range over the previous three days. Since strain is derived from a person’s elevated heart rate, it quantifies things beyond physical exertion as well–like the stress and intensity of a pressure-packed final round of golf.

Thomas’ climactic Sunday at the Players Championship was not short on heart-pumping moments. Here’s his heart rate prior to and during an eagle putt on the 11th hole that gave him the tournament lead:

Justin Thomas' heart rate on an eagle putt to give him the lead on the final day at the Players Championship.

Justin Thomas’ heart rate on an eagle putt to give him the lead on the final day at the Players Championship.

It peaked at 125 beats per minute as he swung his club in celebration after seeing the ball drop into the cup.

And here is Thomas’ heart rate as he watched his drive on the 18th and final hole, which came precariously close to splashing into the water:

Justin Thomas' heart rate while watching his final tee shot at the Players Championship narrowly miss the water and land safely on the fairway.

Justin Thomas’ heart rate while watching his last tee shot at the Players Championship narrowly miss the water and land on the fairway.

Once his ball rolled to a stop safely on the fairway, with a 2-stroke lead Thomas was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief, and three shots later he was the Players Champion.

 

Learn More: Podcast 77 – Justin Thomas on How WHOOP Helps Him Train, Sleep & Perform Better

 

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Mark Van Deusen

Mark Van Deusen is the Content Manager at WHOOP. Before joining WHOOP, Mark served as the Managing Editor and Head Writer for CelticsLife.com. He was also a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a contributor at Yahoo Sports. A former tennis coach, Mark graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in Sociology and Leadership Studies.

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