Let’s get this out of the way up front: Justin Thomas is an incredibly talented golfer. He’s won four tournaments, finished strongly enough elsewhere to be ranked #8 in the world, and he doesn’t turn 24 until April.

You can’t fake that.

He’s also done a lot of recent damage, starting with his win at the CIMB in Malaysia last fall, where he defended his 2015 victory. (Thomas and Ryan Moore have won the last four CIMB Classics, in fact. Maybe they should just play each other next fall for the best of five.) The CIMB counts as part of the PGA Tour’s 2016-2017 season, but his form carried over into the new calendar year as well, as he won the limited field Tournament of Champions.

And then he proceeded to just decimate the Sony Open, opening with a 59 (only the eighth sub-60 round ever recorded on tour; for comparison, there have been 23 perfect games thrown in MLB history) and finishing with a four-round score of 253, the lowest in PGA Tour history. He was absolutely volcanic in Hawaii. (Sorry.)

There’s nothing golf media loves more than another young star upon which to heap expectations. If Thomas doesn’t contend at The Masters, someone, somewhere, will write a “Can Justin Thomas not get it done in the majors?” column. Just this week, we had someone wonder if Rory McIlroy was in a drought, having gone eight majors in a row without winning one.

(Did he do it while calling him some hack columnist nickname? You bet. Did he follow it up by getting into a spat over the definition of “journalist” when it comes to new vs. old media? Oh, he absolutely did.)

That’s Rory McIlroy, ranked #2 in the world, winner of the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup, star of the Ryder Cup. Golf media loves to build players up to spit them out again, and it’s grossly unfair. Jordan Spieth won two majors in 2015, could have won a third at the 2015 British, and then probably should have won another green jacket in 2016.

And he was criticized for having a down year. Thomas is often compared to Spieth, his friend and former collegiate opponent. And that’s a very tough comparison. Of course, it’s still a more rational comparison than vintage Tiger Woods, whose play at the turn of the century set a wholly unrealistic standard, one off of which golf analysts have struggled to move.

It’s a causation, too. Tiger’s rise pumped money into the sport, with money came greater incentive for athletes to take up golf, and with more athletes and more money comes much stiffer competition. Fields are much deeper now, which is both a good sign for Thomas’s longevity; having found success at a young age despite this competition is amazing. But it’s also a bit of a warning, because it’s only going to get tougher. (And it’s fair to note that his four wins have not come against the strongest fields the game has to offer.)

In 2016, he fell off after a promising start, with only one top-five after his T3 at the Players. Again, there’s no shame in that, and experience does matter. He’s on an upward curve, and looks every bit the star. His game is outstanding, as he manufactures all kinds of length despite a relatively slight frame. He’s well-rounded, which he demonstrated by leading the field in just about every meaningful statistical category. And he’s fun to watch, too. Check out the line he took to cut the corner off a dogleg at the Sony:

All of those things are great, and it’s totally fine to throw Thomas in with players like Rory, Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and others. That’s what his ranking demands. Some would put him outside that group, alongside players like Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler, since Thomas doesn’t yet have a major. That’s mostly semantics, but it does illustrate the main issue golf analysts are going to face moving forward.

With a talent pool this deep, and only four major tournaments each year, there are going to be some absolutely fantastic golfers who never win one. That happens anyway, of course, but in the past guys like that were viewed as disappointments. If golf keeps trending the direction it looks to be heading, it’s just going to be impossible for every deserving player to win a major. Guys who fifteen or twenty years ago would have won three or four are going to be lucky to get one.

Not everyone can win, and not everyone can have a disappointing year if they don’t win one. That’s going to be a very big pivot for most golf observers to make, but it’s an important one.

It’s not a “drought.” It’s just golf in 2017.

Keep that in mind when you read or hear someone at the end of 2017 say that Rory, Spieth, Johnson, Day, Thomas, Reed, Matsuyama, Fowler, or any other name near the top of the rankings had a disappointing year because they didn’t win a major. That’s an outdated way of viewing the sport, and if you’re reading someone who tries to tell you it’s not, you should find a different golf analyst.

There are good ones out there, “journalists” or not.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.