Four-Ball: Thomas shows he should be part of major conversation

— -- Justin Thomas' victory Sunday at the SBS Tournament of Champions pushed his career earnings, at the ripe old age of 23, to nearly $9.3 million. He also became the first two-time winner on the PGA Tour in the 2016-17 wraparound season.

So where does Thomas go from here? And how long will his new foil, Hideki Matsuyama, keep up his amazing pace of either winning or finishing as runner-up?

Our experts deliberate on those topics and more in this week's edition of Monday Four-Ball.

1. What's the ceiling for Justin Thomas this year?

ESPN SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman: A major title. I remember when Phil Michelson told all of us after a practice round at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst how good Justin Thomas was going to be. Well, Thomas officially arrived last year. I believe that he has the game to win a major title. What also will help him is his friendly but extremely competitive relationship with Jordan Spieth. Thomas wants to be looked at in the same light as Spieth, and from what I have seen, Thomas has the talent and the swagger to reach those heights. It will be fun to watch. senior golf analyst Michael Collins: Justin Thomas' ceiling depends on the hotel he stays in, could be 8 feet, could be 10 feet. Seriously, he won't win all four majors and the FedEx Cup, so I guess that's his ceiling. He could definitely win a major, but his first accomplishment should be to try to win a PGA Tour event in the continental U.S., which I'm hoping he does before the Arnold Palmer Invitational. senior golf writer Bob Harig: It is difficult to imagine one. He now has won two of his past four starts and has another top-10 this season on the PGA Tour. With three PGA Tour victories, he has as many as Rickie Fowler. And Thomas is just 23 years old. senior golf writer Jason Sobel: Thomas is coming off a 2015-16 season during which he finished third and first in his first two starts, then claimed "only" five more top-10s for the remainder. That's hardly a slump, but in the aftermath of his second win already this season, I think the focus might be less on victory totals or major contentions and more on consistency. I expect him to enjoy less of a roller-coaster ride this year, putting together more weeks of strong results -- something that every elite player has to learn along the way.

2. How long can Hideki Matsuyama continue this pace of high finishes?

Coachman: History tells us not long, but Hideki Matsuyama has a mentality that is great for long periods of success. I also love to see some of his personality come out. And if he is feeling more comfortable, then I see no reason to believe that this high level of play won't continue. If he does sustain this success, there is nothing that anyone else can do about it. Matsuyama will become the No. 1 player in the world.

Collins: Last year, Dustin Johnson went on a run starting at Riviera where he went 13 tournaments with two wins, six top-5s, 10 top-10s, 12 top-15s and his worst finish was 28th. I could easily see Matsuyama going on a run like that, including at the Masters. Now that he's putting better, as long as it keeps improving, the sky is his limit.

Harig: There is bound to be a lull of some sort. That is the nature of golf. But Matsuyama's roll has covered some time off, too, so it's not like this is all in consecutive weeks. His stretch of great golf goes back to the Tour Championship in September, when he tied for fifth.

Sobel: There's no doubt Matsuyama is one of the world's best players and even less doubt he's one of the game's best ball strikers. But it's his tendency to miss short putts in high-pressure situations -- such as the 4-footer for par on Sunday's penultimate hole -- that still leaves me a little reticent to believe he can continue this torrid pace. We've seen guys like Jordan Spieth and Jason Day win with their putters; Matsuyama needs to prove he can be like Adam Scott or Henrik Stenson?and still win when putting only average in relation to the field.

3. What do you make of Jordan Spieth's decision to play the Sony Open?

Coachman: I love it, but I admit I was surprised. It makes sense. Last year, he didn't play because he was jet-setting all over the world for big paydays. But now it's about the PGA Tour and only the PGA Tour. And if he is already in Hawaii for the SBS Tournament of Champions, then staying for another week is no big deal. Plus, this is the kind of course that Spieth should take apart. Makes sense and adds huge star power.

Collins: Smart. Jordan Spieth is a ball striker who can make a lot of putts. Waialae Country Club is not a long course, but I'm sure after seeing what Jimmy Walker did those two weeks a couple of years ago, it made sense for Spieth. The two-time major winner has an amazing short game, which is required at the Sony Open. Spieth should cruise to a top-10 finish. I probably just jinxed him.

Harig: It has always seemed odd that more players who are in the Tournament of Champions simply don't make the easy commute to the Sony Open and spend two weeks rather than one in paradise. But for Spieth, this is very likely a way for him to satisfy the new PGA Tour requirement that he play an event he has not played in the past four years.

Sobel: A month ago, Spieth spoke multiple times of wanting to get off to a better start than last year, which would enable him to be more prepared for the majors. Now he's showing how much he really meant it, by playing Waialae -- a course that should suit his game. A year ago at this point, he was complaining of fatigue after a few overseas trips. Expect him to have a little more fuel in the tank this time around.

4. How do you feel about Jason Day's playing slower comments?

Coachman: He has a right to his opinion for sure, but I'm very surprised to hear it. Day clearly isn't holding back about certain issues, and this is one of them. I will never criticize a person for his opinion, especially when he is the best player in the world. Pace of play is an issue for television and many other reasons. It's obvious the tour and players have a gap to close.

Collins: I understand what he was trying to say, but it came out as a slap to the face of amateurs who take their collective cues from guys who are world No. 1. The cynic in me thought his comments will make a great new Nike commercial: "My new clothes are so cool, I slowed down my routine just so I can see myself in them longer."

Harig: Love his honesty, admire the fact that he knows the PGA Tour's slow-play policy has no teeth, but I am disappointed in the attitude. Day is far from the only slow player in golf and should in no way be singled out. But he is No. 1 in the world, and if his mantra is that he'll take as long as he pleases, that is really unfortunate. There are other factors that lead to slow play, but Day can and should be better than this.

Sobel: I know I'm in the minority here, but I have no problem with it. Day's job is to play the best golf he possibly can; it's not to play the way other people want him to play. Sure, pace of play is an issue -- not only on the PGA Tour but in recreational golf. However, if Day believes that taking a few extra seconds to gauge the wind or visualize his shot will help him find greater success, that's all he should be worried about. Of course, if I'm new commissioner Jay Monahan, I just might take action if the No. 1 player proves to be a repeat offender of the pace-of-play laws. Until he does, though, Day should do whatever it takes to play his best.