lf Channel reported Thomas was caught by a TV microphone using the slur after he missed a 7-foot par putt.
“It’s inexcusable,” Thomas said. “First off, I just apologize. I’m an adult. I’m a grown man, there’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible. I’m extremely embarrassed. It’s not who I am, it’s not the kind of person that I am or anything that I do.
“Unfortunately, I did it and I have to own up to it and I’m very apologetic.”
Thomas said he was not aware that it had been picked up and was a topic on social media until after his round. He finished with a 5-under 68 and is four shots back of the lead.
The PGA Tour said in a statement, “As he expressed after his round, we agree that Justin’s comment was unacceptable.” He is likely to be fined for conduct unbecoming a professional, though the PGA Tour does not disclose conduct punishment.
A year ago, Scott Piercy lost two endorsement deals for sharing a homophobic meme poking fun at Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who is gay, when he announced he was suspending his campaign. Piercy also referenced the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon.
Patrick Reed also had to apologize in Shanghai in 2014 when he cursed in conjunction with a homophobic slur after three-putting.
Thomas, who reached No. 1 in the world for one week last year, is the defending champion at Kapalua.
“It’s bad. There’s no other way to put it,” Thomas said. “I need to do better, I need to be better. It’s definitely a learning experience. I just … I deeply apologize to everybody and anybody who I offended and I’ll be better because of it.”
CBSSports.com reports that Thomas said shooting an impressive 66 in the final round on Sunday didn’t take precedent mentally for him over the last day.
“Golf wasn’t the main thing on my mind,” he said after the round. “Usually being four back going into Sunday I’m thinking about one thing and one thing only, and that’s trying to win the golf tournament. But obviously had a lot of other things on my mind last night. I mean, I apologized yesterday. I don’t need to explain myself. I clearly screwed up. I made a terrible, terrible judgment call.”