Rewind 18 months and Thomas Aiken was looking forward to another season on the European Tour after securing his card with the help of winning the 2014 Africa Open. Present day 2016 paints a very different picture… the 32-year-old is a PGA Tour rookie with a top-15 finish to his name and is preparing to tee off at his second US Open.
The Johannesburger has three European Tour wins and started 2015 with top-10 finishes at the SA Open and Dubai Desert Classic. A top-five result at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open was followed up by a further five top-30s on the European Tour.
Aiken has performed at majors before and boasts top-10 finishes at the Open Championship in 2009 and 2012. At the US Open last year he shot rounds of 74, 71 and 73 for an eight-over-par total and then carded a sublime four-under-par 66 on Sunday to tie for 25th place. That performance would have undoubtedly boosted his confidence.
He decided to take a crack at the United States, but his path began in rocky fashion as he missed his first three cuts on the Web.com Tour. The 2013 Avantha Masters winner shrugged off the disappointment and shot a final-round 65 at the Web.com Tour Championship to share fifth place, thereby earning playing privileges on the PGA Tour for 2016.
He has struggled to adjust in his rookie season and thus far has made eight cuts in 16 tournaments, with a best finish of a tied-15th coming at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. His next best are shares of 42nd place at both the Valspar Championship and Valero Texas Open.
The world number 149 missed four cuts prior to the US Open, but was given a shining opportunity to compete at Oakmont Country Club when Darren Clarke withdrew.
Aiken recently tied for fourth at the BMW PGA Championship and thrives on tough courses. The 2014 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit winner is second on the PGA Tour in fairways hit and tied-eighth for greens in regulation.
His game suits the course and it would be no surprise to see him make the weekend in Pennsylvania this week.