By Jay Betsill
Justin Thomas became the first two-time winner on the PGA Tour in the 2016-17 wraparound season with his victory at the SBS Tournament of Champions in Maui.
However, it did not come easy. Thomas went from a five-shot lead to a one-shot lead in just two holes on the back nine, but held off Hideki Matsuyama to win at Kapalua’s Plantation Course.
“I stumbled more than I would have liked to do,” Thomas said. “But it shows where my game is at right now. I had some woes there, but I stuck it out to still get it done.”
The win is Thomas’ third on the PGA Tour, following back-to-back wins at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and moves him to No. 12 in the world rankings.
In the FedEx Cup era, Thomas is the fourth player with three PGA TOUR wins before turning 24 joining Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy.
Matsuyama was going after his fourth straight victory worldwide with the last tournament he failed to win being another runner up finish to Thomas in Kuala Lumpur.
“My putter let me down there at 16, 17 and 18,” Matsuyama said. “I tipped my hat to Justin. He played well all day long.”
Defending champion Jordan Spieth, well known on tour as Thomas’ best friend, finished in third place following a final round 8-under 65.
“I think it’s potentially floodgates opening,” Spieth said of Thomas. “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.”
Next up on the PGA Tour is the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Big names in the field include Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Zach Johnson, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Bryson DeChambeau, Paul Casey, Jerry Kelly and Ryan Palmer.