Thomas survives in-form Matsuyama for Hawaiian win
American Justin Thomas held off a challenge from Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama to claim a three-shot victory at the SBS Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
The victory did not fall easily into the 23-year-old hands after he struggled on the turn to see his five-shot lead cut to one in the space of two holes along the back nine.
But Thomas finished off by making birdie on the final two holes to pull away from the in-form Matsuyama to close on four-under 69 and win a third PGA Tour title, his first in the US after his consecutive CIMB Classic titles.
Thomas had earned his first victory on the PGA Tour by winning the 2015 CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by a single stroke over Adam Scott. Thomas overcame a double bogey on the 14th hole during the final round and holed a six-foot par putt to claim the win by a stroke.
Thomas pocketed US$1.22 million in prizemoney and moved up to No. 12 in the world ranking.
“Yeah, it’s a great feeling. I mean, obviously I stumbled more than I would have liked to on some of those holes, but I think it really shows where my game is at right now,” said Thomas.
Matsuyama carded 70 for second place while American 2016 champion Jordan Spieth closed with 65 to share third with compatriots Pat Perez and Ryan Moore.
“I swung it really well this week, and, hopefully, I can take that into next week. I just need to make a couple more putts,” said Matsuyama. “I tipped my hat to Justin. He played well all day long. He deserved it.”
World No.1 Jason Day will spend a couple of days in Maui to rid himself of any frustrations before heading to Palm Springs for some intense practice after he finished outside the top 10 in Kapalua for the first time in four attempts.
Day returned to action after a three-month absence from the tour only to finish with a T12 performance, nine shots back of winner Thomas.
“It was up-and-down. Obviously, there’s a lot of soft mistakes out there with the short game,” Day said.
“I’ve got to re-learn to control my emotions again, deep down inside, not get too frustrated with myself.”
Day’s next event is the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines starting on January 26. Before that Day will attend his Palm Springs training base in California in preparation for the season.
“Two weeks (there) is going to be very important,” Day said. “I’ll be staying on top of the body, and really work at the short game. If I can get back to where I was last year, then I should be ready for Torrey.”
Rod Pampling was the next best Aussie finishing in a tie for 17th position, followed by Aaron Baddley and Greg Chalmers who shared 25th position.