Justin Thomas came through with big shots when he needed it to win the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, Hawaii.
The first PGA Tour event in 2017 featured some drama late with a five-stroke lead dropping to one, but the 23-year-old finished birdie-birdie to win with a score of 22 strokes under par for the week.
Hideki Matsuyama continued his incredible start to the season with a second-place finish, although broadcaster Luke Elvy noted he might have a new rival:
The only person to beat Hideki Matsuyama in his last 6 starts is Justin Thomas…twice Stiffler, twice!
— Luke Elvy (@Luke_Elvy) January 9, 2017
Defending champion Jordan Spieth had the best round of the day with a 65 to finish with a 16-under for the tournament. This was good enough to sneak into a tie for third place with Pat Perez and Ryan Moore.
Here is a look at the final results, via PGA.com:
The winner took home a solid $1,220,000 share of the $6,100,00 purse for this tournament. ESPN.com provided a full list of the payouts at this event:
Thomas came into the day with a two-stroke lead thanks to incredible consistency over the first three days, posting a 67 in three consecutive rounds.
He continued his impressive performance with some big-time drives on the open course. PGA Tour showed one long drive that almost reached the green:
JT almost drives the green on the 398 par-4 6th hole. #QuickHits pic.twitter.com/GOfV2iC9S1
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 8, 2017
Scott Bemis of KSEE24 described another big one, albeit with some qualifiers:
It was severely downhill with a little downwind but 150lb Justin Thomas just hit a drive 409yds at the 7th at Kapalua! #theseguysaregood
— Scott Bemis (@SBemisOnline) January 8, 2017
These shots plus a few birdies on the front nine helped him stay ahead of the pack for what seemed like would be an easy finish for a win.
However, the tournament turned on this eagle by Matsuyama on the 14th hole, via the PGA Tour:
Matsuyama needed to make a statement.
That was it. #QuickHits pic.twitter.com/0A2Z3hSg5Q
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 8, 2017
Thomas responded with a double bogey on the next hole, creating an incredible shift in a short period of time, as described by Will Gray of Golf Channel:
Justin Thomas took a 5-shot lead with him to the 14th tee at Kapalua. He heads to 16 just one shot ahead of Matsuyama.
— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) January 8, 2017
With the pressure on, though, Thomas came through with his biggest shot of the day. Jason Sobel of ESPN.com described the key stroke:
Justin Thomas struggling to hold onto the lead, looking frustrated, feeling the heat — and drops an absolute dart into the 17th green.
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) January 9, 2017
He earned a birdie on the hole, while Matsuyama struggled to a bogey, turning a one-stroke lead into a three-stroke cushion going into the final hole.
Matsuyama earned a birdie on No. 18, but it wasn’t enough to catch Thomas, who birdied on his final two holes to secure the win.
Thomas showcased incredible consistency throughout the week, earning scores of 67 on the first three rounds. His final round was a 69, which was more than enough to come away with his second victory of the year.
While many of the big names are just getting their season started, Thomas and Matsuyama have taken the early advantage in the FedEx Cup standings.
Jordan Spieth had a bit of a rough week early with a few big numbers on the scorecard in the first two rounds. However, he was outstanding Sunday as a legitimate threat to catch the leader despite starting the day 10 strokes back.
His 65 in Round 4 tied the lowest score of anyone in the tournament, featuring eight birdies and zero bogeys.
Golf Channel broke down the American’s week:
27 eagles/birdies = 😀
3 others = ☹
Still looking like a Top 5 finish for Spieth in his 2017 debut. pic.twitter.com/mNqQtxTcp1
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) January 8, 2017
Although he couldn’t pull out a win, this was a strong start to the year for the No. 4 player in the world.
William McGirt was also in striking distance Sunday going into the back nine, but a poor showing at the 10th hole hurt his chances, as described by Rex Hoggard of Golf Channel:
Four-putt for William McGirt at No 10 from 49 feet. Thomas’ lead now 5.
— Rex Hoggard (@RexHoggardGC) January 8, 2017
He followed this up with a birdie on the next hole, but a second double bogey right after effectively ended any chance he had of climbing back up the leaderboard. He finished four strokes over par on the back nine, dropping him into a tie for ninth place.
This was a tournament with only 32 entries and no cuts, but it was a loaded field that featured Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and others. Johnson had three rounds of 69 on the week to earn a tie for sixth, while Day ended his tournament well with a birdie on his 72nd hole to finish with a 13-under in a tie for 12th.
In the end, though, it was Thomas who came away with a solid victory to continue his strong 2017 season.
Many of these competitors will now stick around for the Sony Open in Hawaii, which will take place next week at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
Thomas earned his second win of the 2017 season, and he believes this isn’t a fluke.
“I felt confident coming in,” Thomas told Golf Channel after the win, per Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com. “I proved a lot. It’s a great start to the 2017 year and hopefully just a sign of more things to come. “
Meanwhile, Spieth had high praise about his good friend Thomas.
“I think it’s potentially floodgates opening,” Spieth said, per the Associated Press (via PGATour.com). “The guy hits it forever. He’s got a really, really nifty short game. He manages the course well. He’s playing the golf course the way it should be played, and honestly, he’s taking advantage of the easier holes. It’s awesome to see.”
It’s still early, but both Thomas and Spieth could be headed toward big years based on their performances this week.
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