Golf at a glance
PGA TOUR: Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Thursday through Sunday.
TV: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7-10:30 p.m. EST; Sunday, 6-10 p.m. EST; on the Golf Channel each day.
MAUI – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by Sports Xchange) – Justin Thomas already has his calendar marked for the first weekend of 2018.
“I know I’m coming back here next year, so I couldn’t be more excited about that,” he said after posting a three-shot victory Sunday in the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, Hawaii.
Thomas shot a 4-under-par 69 in the final round Sunday to finish at 22-under 270, making him the first qualifier for next year’s Tournament of Champions.
Birdies on the final two holes allowed Thomas to hold off Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who shot a 70 in his final round on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort.
“It’s a great feeling,” Thomas said. “Obviously, I stumbled a little more than I would have liked to on some of those holes, but it really shows where my game is at right now. I had some woes there … but I stuck it out to still get it done.”
Thomas, who possessed a two-shot lead after three rounds, delivered seven birdies on Sunday. That helped him overcome a bogey on No. 10 and a double bogey on No. 15.
“I was very comfortable,” Thomas said. “I hit a lot of really quality shots. The two shots I hit on 17 and those ones on 18 were nice.”
The victory was the third on the PGA Tour for the 23-year-old Thomas, his second in the 2016-17 season. He captured the CIMB Classic at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in October.
Matsuyama birdied the 18th hole but pretty much took himself out of contention with a bogey on the par-4 17th hole. He three-putted the hole, including a missed 4-foot par putt.
Matsuyama’s highlight of the day was an eagle on the par-4 14th hole. He also recorded four birdies and three bogeys.
In his past six events between the Japan Golf Tour and the PGA Tour, Matsuyama has four wins and two runner-up finishes. He won the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, the unofficial Hero World Challenge and two Japanese events, and he came in second behind Thomas at the CIMB Classic and the Tournament of Champions.
Jordan Spieth shot a blistering 8-under 65 to finish in a three-way tie for third at 16-under 276. Spieth fired eight birdies during a bogey-free round. Pat Perez (67) and Ryan Moore (71) also were at 276. Dustin Johnson (69), Patrick Reed (70) and Brendan Steele (71) tied for sixth place at 277.
PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker shared ninth place at 278, and Australian Jason Day (70) tied for 12th at 279. The tournament’s 32-player field consisted entirely of PGA Tour winners in the 2016 calendar year
KAPALUA, MAUI – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by Sports Xchange) – Justin Thomas is the model of consistency so far this week on the golf course. Thomas moved into sole possession of the lead by two strokes on Saturday after three rounds at the SBS Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii. The second-round co-leader fired a 6-under-par 67 for the third consecutive day and finished 54 holes at 18-under 201 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort.
Hideki Matsuyama moved into second place at 16 under after a 66 in the third round. In a three-way tie for third at 14 under were William McGirt (66), 2016 PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker (70) and Ryan Moore (71), the second-round co-leader.
Thomas’ best hole of the day was on the par-14 No. 14 when he drove the green and nailed a 22-foot putt for eagle. He closed with a two-putt birdie at No. 18.
Thomas’ 18-under total was the second best of his career after three rounds, trailing only his 20-under score at the 2015 CIMB Classic, which he won again in 2016 to qualify for this tournament.
In three starts this season on the PGA Tour, Thomas has two top-10 finishes. After Saturday’s round, he thought he missed several opportunities to widen his lead.
“I’m definitely not disappointed with today, but I left a lot out there,” Thomas said.
Matsuyama’s round featured eight birdies. Three of those came on his last five holes.
The red-hot Japanese player has won three consecutive tournaments and four of his last five events. The only tournament he didn’t win during that stretch was the CIMB event in Malaysia, where Thomas claimed the title.
Dustin Johnson was seven strokes back after a 69 and Jason Day (70), the world’s top-ranked player, was eight behind in his first tournament since the Tour Championship after sitting out to rest his back.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth fell 10 shots off the pace after a 70 that included a double bogey
MAUI – Justin Thomas and Ryan Moore each shot 67s on Friday and took a one-stroke lead after two rounds of the SBS Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii. Thomas and Moore are at 12-under-par 134 after 36 holes. The posted identical 6-under 67s each of the past two days on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.
Tied for second are first-round leader Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reid at 11 under.
Walker was at 12 under until he made bogey on the 17th hole to fall one back after a 70. Reed posted one of the low rounds of the day with an 8-under 65.
Thomas made three birdies in a row starting at No. 3 and came home with four birdies on the back side, including the final two holes. His only slip was a bogey at the par-5 15th hole.
Moore recovered from a bogey at the second hole with seven birdies the rest of the way, including four of the last five holes. His wedge on No. 18 landed a foot from the cup.
Jason Dufner was by himself at 10 under after back-to-back 68s and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan was another shot back at 9 under after a 68.
Matsuyama was one of six players to lead in the second round but fell back after a double bogey at No. 17. He is bidding for his fourth consecutive victory.
Jason Day, the world’s No. 1 ranked player, was tied for 11th at 7 under after posting a 69. Als at 7 under was Dustin Johnson after a second-round 70.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth finished the day with an impressive nine birdies, but he sabotaged his round with a double-bogey on the par-3 eight hole and a triple bogey after an errant drive on the 17th hole for a 69.
Spieth is seven shots out of the lead at 5 under.
“I’ll struggle for the next couple hours getting over 17 kind of throwing me out of the tournament,” Spieth said after his 69.
MAUI – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Expectations rise as the calendar changes to 2017 in the PGA Tour’s overlapping season and the intensity will be on display in the SBS Tournament of Champions beginning Thursday at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort in Maui, Hawaii. The tournament field is limited to 32 players, each of whom were victorious at least once on the PGA Tour in the 2016 calendar year, including the seven official events played in the fall.
It’s a clique inside a clique, a showcase for Alpha golfers separated from their peers by recent success – and the players obviously love being here.
“The tournament is so easy (to enjoy),” defending champion Jordan Spieth said. “It just makes it so easy to do so with quick practice rounds and then a chance to go to the beach and hang out the rest of the day. It’s just kind of in a good place in Maui. I mean, how can you not be (having fun)?”
Jason Day, the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking, is set to make his PGA Tour season debut this week in Kapalua after being sidelined in the fall while rehabilitating a back injury. The Australian qualified for the SBS Tournament of Champions with three victories last season (the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the WGC-Dell Match Play and The Players Championship).
It’s been seven months since Day last won a tournament but he’s far from worried about the fitness of his game.
“I haven’t thought about it until I was asked,” Day said lightheartedly about the time between wins. “It feels a little bit long. I’ve had longer droughts between winning tournaments than seven months. I’d like to win every event but I can’t unless it’s a one-guy event – then I’d win in a playoff every single time.”
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama is perhaps the hottest golfer on the planet after winning four of his past five tournament in 2016 (he was second in the fifth) over the past three months. Matsuyama said he is able to handle the pressure of expectation of success because he can only try his best.
Matsuyama tied for third in this tournament last year and is currently atop the FedEx Cup standings and No. 6 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“The expectations from the people around me are high,” Matsuyama said through a translator. “I don’t really worry too much about that and I try not to put pressure on myself. But I know that other people expect a lot from me.
“I am working hard, and hopefully, little by little, I’ll get better and better. I know there’s a lot of guys, great players ahead of me. It just gives me more incentive to work harder.”
This week’s event marks the resumption of the 2016-17 PGA Tour schedule after a six-week break from official events. The SBS Tournament of Champions is the eighth official event of the PGA Tour’s 2016-17 season schedule. The overall season consists of 47 events including the four FedExCup Playoff events.
The SBS Tournament of Champions has been contested at Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw-designed Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort since 1999. Its past champions include Tiger Woods (2000), Ernie Els of South Africa (2003), Vijay Singh of Fiji (2007), Dustin Johnson (2013), Zach Johnson (2014), Patrick Reed (2015) and Spieth (2016).
The 32 players in the field have accounted for 109 PGA Tour wins, led by Dustin Johnson’s 12 career victories, including his three wins in the 2016 calendar year at the U.S. Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and BMW Championship. He is followed by Day (10), Bubba Watson (nine) and Spieth and Brandt Snedeker (with eight each).
There are three past champions of the SBS Tournament of Champions in the field this week – Spieth (2016), Reed (2015) and Dustin Johnson (2013) – and 11 first-time winners are playing in this tournament: Daniel Berger, Greg Chalmers, Tony Finau