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The Takeaway

Thomas wins Sony in a romp

by Mo Yoshimoto
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Sony Open in Hawaii:

 

 

First- second- and third-round leader Justin Thomas spun a 5-under-par 34-31=65 in today's final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii to finish off his third appearance on 27-under 253, good for a 7-shot win over Justin Rose.

 

This is his fourth PGA TOUR title in 74 career events (70 pro), second straight, and third this season in five starts. The 23-year-old’s 72-hole aggregate sets a new scoring record on TOUR, besting Tommy Armour III at the 2003 Valero Texas Open (254). He also eclipses the tournament record as well, eclipsing Russell Henley’s 2013 winning total by three.

 

Thomas is the fourth player to win the Sony in wire-to-wire fashion (no ties) and first since K.J. Choi in 2008. Chasing last week’s 3-shot win at the SBS Tournament of Champions on Maui, where he was a 36-hole co-leader and 54-hole leader, he is also the first player since Ernie Els in 2003 to win the Aloha double.

 

The Kentuckian opened the week with a hole-out eagle-2 en route to a career-low course-record 59, the youngest player ever to shoot sub-60, and chased with 64 to lead by five at the halfway point. His 17-under 123 was the lowest 36-hole score in TOUR history, previously 124 by three players, most recently Jason Day at the 2015 BMW Championship.

 

The University of Alabama product tacked on a bogey-free 65 to reach the three-quarter pole on 22-under 188, matching the low 54-hole score in TOUR history (Steve Stricker, 2010 John Deere Classic).

 

He began the finale with a 7-shot lead over 2009 champ Zach Johnson, the largest 54-hole lead in tournament history, previously six by Jack Nicklaus in 1974, and eight clear of three others, including Justin Rose, who completed the final threesome.

 

Thomas squared a lone bogey-4 at the fourth (3-putt from 46’6”), converted a sand save at the sixth with a 7’11” par-saver, before breaking the ice with a 21-footer for birdie-3 at the eighth.

 

After a two-putt birdie at the par-5 ninth, he reached the turn leading by six over three players, Johnson, Rose and Kevin Kisner. Thomas came to the house in 4-under, circling back-to-backs at 11 and 12, from 18’1” and 30 inches, respectively, and birdieing the 14th and 18th, both from inside of four feet. He also saved par from 11’7” at 15.

 

In the end, Thomas never led by less than five shots in the finale and has now been tied or atop the leaderboard in each of the last seven rounds on TOUR. He’s a cumulative 49-under in his last eight laps. Thomas was also an 18-hole co-leader and 36-hole leader at his win in October at the CIMB Classic, which he won by three at 23-under 265.

 

For a second week in a row, he was No. 1 in SG: Tee-to-Green (12.698) and par-4 scoring (3.69). Thomas was also No. 1 in SG: Off-the-Tee (5.328), driving distance (all drives) at 309.0 yards, birdies (26), and putts per GIR (1.589) after being T1 last week.

 

He was T1 in par-5 scoring (3.75) and T1 in eagles (3). See Thomas’ full stats and more tournament info below.

 

 

Justin Rose: The World No. 16 twirled a 6-under-par 32-32=64 in the final round for a four-day tally of 20-under 260, good for solo 2nd, seven in arrears.

 

This was his fifth appearance, first since T13 in 2011, and supplants a previous-best T12 in 2010, where he also closed with 64. The 36-year-old, who was making his first start of the season, fulfilled the new TOUR requirement to add a tourney that he hadn't played in the last four years, and he's glad he did.

 

The Olympic gold medalist began the final frame in a three-way T3 on 14-under, eight adrift. He squared a lone bogey-4 at 11 (failed scramble), but silenced it with six conventional birdies at Nos. 3, 4, 8 (14'4"), 10, 16 and 18, adding a 47-footer from off the green at the par-4 15th (using the flat stick). For the week, he carded 25 birdies versus five bogeys and posted rounds of 66-64-66-64. It's his 10th runner-up in 288 career events, first since T2 at the 2015 TOUR Championship, and bumps to World No. 13.

 

Jordan Spieth (65-67-66-63) finished in solo 3rd, eight back, while Kevin Kisner (70-67-60-65) and Jamie Lovemark (64-68-65-65) finished in a two-way T4, nine shy. Kisner and Lovemark posted consecutive top-10 finishes at the Sony, as did 2009 champ Zach Johnson, who finished in a two-way T6 (69-61-65-68), 10 adrift.

 

 

This was the 52nd playing of the Sony with all 52 being contested at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. The 7,044-yard par-70 layout (35-35) played under-par in all four rounds with a cumulative scoring average of 68.309.

 

Thomas posted rounds of 59-64-65-65 for 20.238 SG: Total.

 

This was Thomas’ third appearance. He missed the cut last year and was T6 on debut in 2015. At the 2015 edition, he was a 36-hole co-leader on 12-under (67-61), but closed with 70-70. Before this week’s opening 59, that second-round 61 was his previous low on TOUR, also posting 61 in R2 at the 2016 CIMB, site of his first TOUR title.

 

In five starts this season, Thomas has five top 25s, four of which are top 10s. He’s already won $3.8M, after having earned $4.1M last season in 28 starts. Dating back to a T6 at the TOUR Championship and tossing in a T4 on the Japan Tour (Dunlop Phoenix Tournament), he now has six top 10s in his last seven worldwide starts.

 

As mentioned, it’s Thomas’ fourth career TOUR title, but first in a full-field event. His previous three were in no-cut events, winning the 2016 CIMB as a 54-hole leader, the 2017 CIMB in come-from-behind fashion, and last week’s SBS TOC as the 54-hole leader.

 

Thomas has won all four of his titles as a 36-hole leader/co-leader, and improves to 4-for-6 in that regard, and also improves to 3-for-4 as a 54-hole leader/co-leader, including his last three consecutive.

 

He collects 500 FedExCup (FEC) points for the victory and moves to No. 1 in the standings, bumping Hideki Matsuyama to 2nd. Thomas entered the week trailing by 36 points, but now leads by 437 points. Despite a disappointing T69 finish on 2-under 268 (67-67-68-76) and depositing just 3.03 FEC points, Pat Perez maintained 3rd-place, 860 points behind Thomas.

 

Top 10 in FEC standings (points):

 

1. Justin Thomas (1,614)

2. Hideki Matsuyama (1,177)

3. Pat Perez (754)

4. Brendan Steele (648)

5. Mackenzie Hughes (643)

6. Rod Pampling (560)

7. Cody Gribble (481)

8. Russell Knox (449)

9. Gary Woodland (411)

10. Luke List (382)

 

With a Strength of Field rating of 324, Thomas banked 50.00 world-ranking points, jumping four places to a career-best 8th in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). The Top 7 in OWGR remained unchanged:

 

1. Jason Day (idle)

2. Rory McIlroy (finished P2 on Euro Tour)

3. Dustin Johnson (idle)

4. Henrik Stenson (idle)

5. Jordan Spieth (3rd)

6. Hideki Matsuyama (T27)

7. Adam Scott (idle)

8. Justin Thomas (Won)

9. Patrick Reed (idle)

10. Alex Noren (idle)

 

NOTE: Bubba Watson (idle), dipped to No. 11 from No. 10, dropping out of the OWGR Top 10 for the first time since 2014. He’d been in the top 10 ever since moving from No. 12 to No. 4 after winning the 2014 Masters.

 

 

In total, eight of the Top 25 in OWGR were in the field with three finishing in the top 10:

 

No. 5 Jordan Spieth (finished solo 3rd); No. 6 Hideki Matsuyama (T27); No. 12 Justin Thomas (1st); No. 15 Paul Casey (CUT); No. 16 Justin Rose (2nd); No. 18 Branden Grace (T13); No. 19 Russell Knox (T11); No. 20 Jimmy Walker (CUT).

 

 

Winner’s Weekly Stats (ranking of 73 players):

 

Eagles: 3 (T1)

Birdies: 26 (1st)

Bogeys: 5 (T10)

 

Par-3 Scoring: 2.88 (T10)

Par-4 Scoring: 3.69 (1st); season-leader at 3.75

Par-5 Scoring: 3.75 (T1)

 

Driving Distance (all drives): 309.0 yards (1st)

Driving Accuracy: 25/66 (T66) at 44.64 percent

Greens in Regulation: 56/72 (T12) at 77.78 percent

Proximity to Hole: 29’1” (6th)

Putts per GIR: 1.589 (1st)

Total Putts: 107 (T3); by round: 23-27-28-29

Scrambling: 12/16 (T14) at 75.00 percent

 

SG: Off-the-Tee: 5.328 (1st)

SG: Approach-the-Green: 6.145 (4th)

SG: Around-the-Green: 1.226 (23rd)

SG: Tee-to-Green: 12.698 (1st)

SG: Putting: 7.540 (2nd)

 

 

Yahoo! Low Rounds:

 

R1: Justin Thomas (59)

R2: Bryce Molder; Zach Johnson (61)

R3: Kevin Kisner (60)

R4: Chez Reavie (61)

 

 

Career-low Rounds:

 

R1: Justin Thomas (59); Hudson Swafford (62)

R2: Bryce Molder (62)

R3: Kevin Kisner (60); Ryan Brehm (64)

 

 

Draw:

 

In total, 82 players from a field of 142 pros and two amateurs made the 36-hole cut of 3-under 137:

 

37 (of 72) EARLY/late

45 (of 72) LATE/early

 

Of the 10 players who finished in the top 10, it was an even split, with five emerging from each side. The top-3 finishers are listed below:

 

Justin Thomas (Won): EARLY/late

Justin Rose (2nd): LATE/early

Jordan Spieth: (3rd): EARLY/late

 

NOTE: With 82 pros making the 36-hole cut, there was a second cut of low 70 and ties after 54 holes: 73 players on 4-under 206.

 

 

Did You Know?

 

It’s been 27 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, claiming the 2016 Hyundai TOC as a 4/1 favorite.

 

Spieth was the fave on Oahu at 6/1, then Matsuyama at 8/1, then Thomas at 12/1.

 

Jordan Spieth: The OWGR No. 5 closed out last week’s defense on Maui – his first start of the season – with a bogey-free 8-under 65 to back-door a T3 and finish six shy of Thomas.

 

This week, he began the finale in solo 9th, 10 adrift, and back-doored solo 3rd with a 7-under 63 to finish eight in arrears.  

 

For the week, the 23-year-old circled 24 birdies versus five bogeys. He was No. 1 in SG: Approach-the-Green at 10.362, but 53rd in SG: Putting (0.268), including 3.367 in R4, and 59th in SG: Around-the-Green (-1.239).

 

Inclusive of a T6 at the unofficial Hero World Challenge and his playoff win at the Emirates Australian Open, the 8-time TOUR winner has now posted four straight top 10s worldwide.

 

Hideki Matsuyama: The World No. 6 (and FEC leader entering the week), ended his streak of seven consecutive worldwide top 5s, including four wins and two runners-up, with a T27 on 11-under 269 (66-67-67-69).

 

While never a factor, his four rounds in the 60s extended his sub-par streak this season to 16 straight and is cumulative 73-under in those four starts. The 24-year-old did manage to complete four rounds at the Sony for the first time in five tries.

 

 

Defending Champ:

 

Fabian Gomez: The playoff winner from a year ago finished 72nd (of 73) players on 1-under 279 (69-66-71-73), a distant 26 shots back of Thomas and 19 shots worse than last year’s winning total.

 

 

What We Learned:

 

Experience matters at Waialae CC. In the last two years, only one player (of 44) first-timers has finished in the top 10, Si Woo Kim, who finished 4th last year.

 

First-timers on Oahu: 24

Top-10 finishes: NONE

 

Branden Grace (67-68-65-67) was top debutant with a T13 on 13-under 267.

 

 

TOUR rookies: 14

 

Playoff winner of The RSM Classic Mackenzie Hughes (68-65-68-68) and Ollie Schniederjans (66-67-66-70) shared low rookie honors with T27s on 11-under 269.

 

Schniederjans was in the field off his top 10 at the RSM (T6), which remains his career best on TOUR in 19 starts (16 pro).

 

 

Season Trends:

 

Inclusive of Thomas, EIGHT of the first NINE 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 4-for-9 converting. Hideki Matsuyama (WGC-HSBC), Mackenzie Hughes (The RSM Classic), and Justin Thomas x2 (SBS TOC and Sony Open) 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.

 

Lahiri had a 4-shot lead thru 54 holes at the CIMB but Thomas erased that with an 8-under 64 to beat Matsuyama (66) by three.

 

NOTE: Matsuyama also won the unofficial Hero World Challenge as the 54-hole leader.

 

In five of the first six tournaments this season, the 54-hole leader lost (Matsuyama converted at the WGC-HSBC), but have now won the last three (Hughes, Thomas, Thomas).

 

 

Up Next:

 

The TOUR heads to the mainland for this week’s three-course CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, California, with the par-72 TPC Stadium at PGA West serving as host for a second straight year.

 

Jason Dufner is the defending champion after prevailing over Sweden’s David Lingmerth in a two-man two-hole playoff after the pair had matched 72-hole aggregates of 25-under 263.

 

Dufner co-led after 18 holes and led outright after 36 and 54 holes, respectively.

 

Stay tuned to this space for all the latest player news and analysis as the TOUR plays its 10th tournament of the season (of 47).