When not partaking in golf's version of law and order, or acting as friend and foil for Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas has proved to be a pretty good golfer -- a case he made again with an exclamation point at the Honda Classic.
The side stories hardly seem to have disrupted his quest to build on a dream 2017 season, when he captured a major championship, the FedEx Cup and PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.
Since then, Thomas has spent considerable time making sure he's not resting on those accomplishments. He picked the brain of Woods -- along with buddy Jordan Spieth -- for counsel, while also spending time with the 14-time major champion on the course at home in South Florida.
Thomas and Woods also have been grouped together four times during Woods' brief comeback -- twice in the Bahamas, and during the first two rounds of the Genesis Open.
Perhaps seeing what Woods endures on a daily basis prompted Thomas to speak up when there was some unruly fan behavior on Sunday, leading him to get a spectator ejected -- a move for which he later apologized.
All the while, Thomas has run his career victory total to eight at age 24 -- a feat previously achieved by only Jack Nicklaus, Woods and Spieth -- while rising to third in the Official World Golf Ranking behind Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm ahead of this week's WGC-Mexico Championship.
"This definitely takes the pressure off me. I was starting to feel a little bit,'' Thomas said about trying to live up to what he accomplished a year ago. "I want to be more consistent this year and I want to have more chances to win.
"Obviously I would love to win five times every season and if that meant my exact stats from last year, I'll take that every single year. But I feel like when I give myself a chance to win, I feel comfortable and I feel like I can get it done, and that's why this year I wanted to do so, more ... I've been happy with how consistent I've been, but without any wins, I'm constantly being reminded. It's nice to get a little bit off my back.''
Thomas won in October at the CJ Cup in South Korea, a victory that is part of the 2017-18 season. But through tournament starts in Hawaii (where he was defending two titles), Phoenix and Los Angeles, there were no victories. Along the way, he began fielding the inevitable Woods questions. Thomas celebrated his PGA Championship victory with Woods (and his Honda Classic win at Woods' restaurant in Jupiter, Florida, on Sunday night) and has seen Woods preparing for his return as much as anyone.
Hence, the inevitable queries about Woods and his return that had to make old-timers like Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson chuckle. Standard fare a decade ago was suddenly part of the realm for the 20-somethings.
Then there is the fan-policing undertaken by Thomas, not necessarily received very well by the masses. He expressed some frustration with fan behavior at the Genesis Open, where he played with Woods and Rory McIlroy for two rounds.
And it became an issue again Sunday at the Honda Classic, where Thomas had a spectator removed because of incessant badgering. The fan said, "I hope you hit it in the water,'' before his tee shot at the 16th hole, then followed up with "get in the bunker'' when the ball was airborne.
"I felt it was inappropriate, so he had to go home,'' said Thomas, who got plenty of negative feedback on Twitter from those who felt that so long as the comments weren't made during his swing, they were OK.
A day later, Thomas agreed that perhaps he overreacted and expressed regret for having someone kicked out.
Nonetheless, he put himself out there -- just as he has done for a good part of the past year by putting himself among the top players in the game. His playoff victory over Luke List at the Honda Classic was his seventh victory in his past 31 PGA Tour starts.
And with only a month to go before the Masters, Thomas will be considered among the favorites -- the only player right now who has the chance to win two straight major championships.
"I'm very excited and very thrilled where my game's at,'' Thomas said. "I feel like I'm playing very, very well. I feel like I have a lot more control over my game than maybe I did last year. I had more wins, obviously, coming into this event than last year. But in terms of a consistency factor, just everything is tightened up a lot more, which I really like."
Will it lead to more wins?
"Whether that's going to happen or not, you never know, that's the crazy and hard part about this game," he said. "But all I know is I just need to continue to put in the work and just see what we can do.''