SBS Tournament of Champions:
With a birdie-birdie finish, overnight leader and World No. 22 Justin Thomas overcame a late double bogey-7 to card a 4-under-par 69 in the final round of the SBS Tournament of Champions, and with a 72-hole tally of 22-under 270, bested runner-up Hideki Matsuyama by three shots.
The 23-year-old, who also co-led at the midpoint, hoists the trophy for a second time this season and claims his third PGA TOUR title in his 73rd career event (69 as a pro).
After opening in trip 67s, he began the finale with a two-shot lead over playing competitor Matsuyama and four clear of William McGirt, first-round leader Jimmy Walker, and second-round co-leader Ryan Moore.
The Kentuckian increased the margin to three at the turn with birdies on Nos. 3 (from 9’0”), 5 (after missing eagle from 11’3”), and 8 (27'4"). At that point, the leaderboard read:
1: Justin Thomas -21 (thru 9 holes)
2: William McGirt -18 (thru 9)
3: Hideki Matsuyama -16 (9)
T4: Jordan Spieth -15 (16)
T4: Pat Perez -15 (14)
T4: Ryan Moore -15 (10)
After the break, the Alabama product squared bogey-5 at 10 (failed scramble), bounced back with birdie from 21 inches at the par-3 11th, and circled birdie-3 at 13 from 9’4”, building a seemingly insurmountable 5-shot lead.
At the drivable par-4 14th, Thomas missed birdie from 11’9” and Matsuyama – now his closest competitor after McGirt opened the back nine in double bogey-birdie-double bogey – pitched in for eagle-2 from 59’4” away, trimming the margin to three.
Prior to the improbable eagle, Matsuyama was laboring at 1-under thru 13 holes with three birdies against two bogeys.
On to the par-5 15th, Thomas striped his drive 292 yards in the fairway, leaving 237 yards for his second. He snap-hooked the approach into the hazard 47 yards short of the green, and had to go back and drop in the left rough, now 119 yards away.
Thomas missed the green, chipped to 9’1”, and missed the bogey putt. Matsuyama had a conventional birdie try from 10’3” and a potential three-shot swing, but missed. In the span of two holes however, the 5-shot margin was now just one.
At the par-4 16th, both players missed makeable birdie putts, and then Thomas sealed the deal at the par-4 17th with a 214-yard approach to 39 inches for a near kick-in birdie, while Matsuyama suffered his second 3-putt of the round (from 28’9”) for bogey-5.
The twosome exchanged two-putt birdies on the par-5 18th with Matsuyama signing for a 3-under 36-34=70 and Thomas carding a 33-36=69.
Of note, the duo were also paired together in Round 1 with Thomas getting the better of that head-to-head as well, 67 versus 69.
Also noteworthy, after the hole-out eagle at the 14th for Matsuyama, he missed birdie tries of 10’3” and 9’9”, whiffed his par putt on 17 from 3’10”, and missed eagle at the 18th from 11’10”. All told, he suffered through a -2.015 in SG: Putting in the final frame.
The 24-year-old Japanese star didn’t quite have enough this week but records his third career runner-up in 86 career starts (81 pro) and has now finished T3 in 2015 (as 54-hole co-leader) and solo 2nd in his two trips to the winners-only event.
While he was vying for his fourth consecutive worldwide win and fifth in his last six events, he settles for his second runner-up of the season in three starts to go along with his 7-shot win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Matsuyama was also runner-up to Thomas 11 weeks ago at the CIMB Classic (also by three shots).
This was the 65th playing of the SBS TOC and 19th consecutive at The Plantation Course in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii. The 7,452-yard par-73 layout (36-37) played under-par in all four rounds with a cumulative scoring average of 70.375.
Thomas posted rounds of 67-67-67-69 for 11.500 SG: Total. He was No. 1 in SG: Tee-to-Green (8.265), No. 1 in par-4 scoring (3.70), T1 in putts per GIR (1.683) and T1 in bogeys (3). See full stats below.
This was Thomas’ second appearance on Maui after finishing T21 (of 32 players) last year on rounds of 70-73-69-69. His scoring average in the eight rounds is 68.88 and he’s a cumulative 33-under-par.
In four starts this season, Thomas has four top 25s, three of which are top 10s, and is the season’s first multiple winner. Dating back to a T6 at the TOUR Championship, and tossing in a T4 on the Japan Tour (Dunlop Phoenix Tournament), he now has five top 10s in his last six worldwide starts.
As mentioned, it’s Thomas’ third career TOUR title with each of the three coming in limited-field no-cut events. He won the 2015-16 CIMB as a 54-hole co-leader and came from four back with a closing 8-under 64 to successfully defend his title in Malaysia.
Thomas has won all three of his titles as a 36-hole leader/co-leader, and improves to 3-for-5 in that regard, and also improves to 2-for-3 as a 54-hole leader/co-leader.
He collects 500 FedExCup (FEC) points for the victory but stays at No. 2 in the FEC standings to Matsuyama, who he now trails by 36 points. Perez, who posted his third straight top 10 (T7-1-T3), is in 3rd-place, 363 points behind Thomas.
Top 10 in FEC standings (points):
1. Hideki Matsuyama (1,150)
2. Justin Thomas (1,114)
3. Pat Perez (751)
4. Brendan Steele (648)
5. Mackenzie Hughes (616)
6. Rod Pampling (556)
7. Cody Gribble (481)
8. Russell Knox (382)
9. Scott Piercy (351)
10. Luke List (329)
With a Strength of Field rating of 321, Thomas banked 50.00 world-ranking points, jumping 10 places to a career-best 12th in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). The Top 11 in OWGR remained unchanged:
1. Jason Day (T12)
2. Rory McIlroy (qualified, did not play)
3. Dustin Johnson (T6)
4. Henrik Stenson (qualified, DNP)
5. Jordan Spieth (T3)
6. Hideki Matsuyama (2nd)
7. Adam Scott (qualified, DNP)
8. Patrick Reed (T6)
9. Alex Noren (idle)
10. Bubba Watson (T25)
11. Danny Willett (qualified, DNP)
In total, 10 of the Top 25 in OWGR were in the field this week with six finishing in the top 10:
No. 1 Jason Day (finished T12); No. 3 Dustin Johnson (T6); No. 5 Jordan Spieth (T3); No. 6 Hideki Matsuyama (2nd); No. 8 Patrick Reed (T6); No. 10 Bubba Watson (T25); No. 17 Branden Grace (32nd – last place); No. 18 Russell Knox (T17); No. 21 Jimmy Walker (T9); No. 22 Justin Thomas (1st).
Winner’s Weekly Stats (ranking of 32 players):
Eagles: 1 (T2)
Birdies: 25 (2nd)
Bogeys: 3 (T1)
Doubles: 1 (T16)
Par-3 Scoring: 2.67 (T3)
Par-4 Scoring: 3.70 (1st); season-leader at 3.76
Par-5 Scoring: 4.69 (T23)
Driving Distance: 307.0 yards (4th)
Driving Accuracy: 44/60 (T17) at 73.33 percent
Greens in Regulation: 63/72 (2nd) at 87.50 percent
Proximity to Hole: 32’8” (3rd)
Putts per GIR: 1.683 (T1)
Total Putts: 118 (T4); by round: 29-30-29-30
Scrambling: 6/9 (12th) at 66.67 percent
SG: Off-the-Tee: 4.896 (3rd)
SG: Approach-the-Green: 2.392 (7th)
SG: Around-the-Green: 0.976 (13th)
SG: Tee-to-Green: 8.265 (1st)
SG: Putting: 3.236 (4th)
Yahoo! Low Rounds:
R1: Jimmy Walker (65)
R2: Patrick Reed (65)
R4: Jordan Spieth (65)
NOTE: Golf Channel has a new BETA version of its Fantasy game. You still make your picks each week, but it’s now a salary-based format of six players.
Did You Know?
It’s been 26 events since the last pre-tourney odds-favorite(s) won. Spieth is the most recent, winning the 2016 DEAN & DELUCA as a 6/1 outright.
In fact, Spieth owns the last two wins in this regard, also winning here last year as a 4/1 favorite.
This week, Spieth and Matsuyama were co-faves at 5/1. Thomas won as a 14/1.
Jordan Spieth: The 23-year-old spun a bogey-free 8-under-par 33-32=65 in the final round to jump 16 spots into a three-way T3 on 16-under 276 (72-69-70-65), six shy of Thomas.
His closing 65 tied the low round of the week (with two others), but his 16-under total was where he was at the midpoint last year, eventually posting 30-under and winning by eight, the largest margin of victory on TOUR last season.
The Texan was No. 1 for the week in total birdies with 26, including nine in R2 and eight in R4, but squared five bogeys, two doubles and a triple. He's in the published field at this week’s Sony Open, where he'll make his second appearance (MC/2014).
What We Learned:
Thomas is the seventh straight American to win at Kapalua Resort. Geoff Ogilvy, who won back-to-backs in 2009 and 2010, is the last international winner.
First-timers on Maui: 11
Top-10 finishes: 2
Tony Finau (70-68-70-70) and William McGirt (70-69-66-73) tied for low debutants with T9s. McGirt went out in bogey-free 4-under 32, ascending to solo 2nd and within three of Thomas, but came home in 4-over 41 to finish eight back.
TOUR rookies: 2
Inclusive of Thomas, SEVEN of the first EIGHT winners have emerged out of the FINAL group on Sunday. Only Brendan Steele bucks the trend, coming from four back with 7-under 65 to heist the season-opening Safeway out of the third-to-last threesome.
54-hole leaders/co-leaders are now 3-for-8 converting. Hideki Matsuyama (WGC-HSBC), Mackenzie Hughes (The RSM Classic), and now Justin Thomas have been successful. Patton Kizzire (Safeway), Anirban Lahiri (CIMB), Luke List, Chris Kirk (Sanderson Farms), Lucas Glover (Shriners) and Gary Woodland (OHL), all failed to convert.
NOTE: Matsuyama also won the unofficial Hero World Challenge as the 54-hole leader.
The TOUR makes a short trip to Honolulu for this week’s Sony Open at the par-70 (35-35) Waialae Country Club, where Fabian Gomez is the defending champion.
The Argentine overcame a four-shot deficit in the final round with a career-low 62 to match 54-hole co-leader Brandt Snedeker on 20-under, and then defeated him with birdie on the second hole of sudden death.
Gomez’ win was his second (2015 FedEx St. Jude) and came in his 84th career start at the age of 37 years, 1 month and 21 days.
Stay tuned to this space for all the latest player news and analysis as the TOUR plays its ninth tournament (of 47) on the season.