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Home : Golf NewsBack to News

Thomas holds off Matsuyama

 

In the end, American young gun Justin Thomas was able to hold off a super-hot Hideki Matsuyama and march home to a three-shot victory when the 2016/17 US PGA Tour resumed with the annual SBS Tournament of Champions at Hawaii's Kapalua Golf Resort on Sunday.

But not before the Kentucky-born 23-year-old had to loudly remind himself in the face of a scary Matsuyama charge that had reduced his earlier lead from five shots to just one that a one-shot lead with two holes to go was not too bad a place to be in.

Instead of fretting, he cast his mind back to some of the fine golf he had played throughout the week while compiling three solid rounds of 6-under 67 on Kapalua's often tough and blustery, par-73 Plantation Course and it helped him unleash what he insisted was his most inspired shot of the tournament - a brilliant eight-iron approach from 214 yards at 17 that pulled up just three feet from the pin and gave him not much more than a tap-in putt for birdie.

Matsuyama, gunning for his 4th straight world-wide wide victory and generally hailed as the hottest golfer on the Planet at the start of this elite event composed solely of the previous season's PGA Tour winners, seemed to be shaken by Thomas's unexpected fight back.

Inexplicably he stumbled, three-putted for bogey and set Thomas free of the chains of pressure that had been reeling him in.

Thomas closed with a two-putt birdie for a 4-under 69, a 22-under 270 and a three-shot victory, his second on the PGA Tour this season and one that hoisted him to a career-high No 12 in the world, his earlier victory having come late last year at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.

"The best shot I hit this week," a beaming Thomas told reporters afterwards. "There's a tree that's a little slanted, and it's a perfect aiming point. I just kind of aimed it there and made sure I held onto the club, if anything, to make sure my miss was right. ... And really, I just flushed it. As soon as it came off, I knew it was going to be perfect."

Matsuyama, meanwhile knowing he needed to make a 30-foot birdie putt at 17 to stay in the game, instead rolled it some 8 feet past the hole, missed the return par putt - and knew then that his race was run.

Jordan Spieth, the winner of two majors and the FedEx Cup in 2013 and the defending champion here this week, didn't manage to retain his title, but he maintained some of the momentum that saw him rebound from a quiet spell last season to win the Australian Open in December, to finish in Kapalua on Sunday in a tie for third place with fellow Americans Pat Perez (67) and Ryan Moore (71), this after closing with a highly encouraging 8-under 65.

World No 2 Dustin Johnson (69) finished a further shot back on 277 in a tie for 6th with Patrick Reed (70) and Brendan Steele (71) while World No 1 Jason Day, making his first appearance on the PGA Tour in this season after a longish layoff with a back injury, came home, a shot further back, in a 12th place tie after closing with a 70.

Spieth, also 23, has been best friends with Thomas since their teens and had high praise for him afterwards.

He said: "I think you might see the floodgates opening. 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.

"It's awesome to see," Spieth added. "He's going to be tough to beat next week, too."

Thomas is the only player to have beaten Matsuyama during the past three months. In his last six tournaments worldwide, Matsuyama has had four victories and two runner-up finishes - both of these behind Thomas, the first in Kuala Lumpur and now the second in Kapalua.

TOP-20 FINAL SCORES
(Par 73 - US unless stated)

270 Justin Thomas 67 67 67 69
273 Hideki Matsuyama (Jap) 69 68 66 70
276 Jordah Spieth 72 69 70 65, Pat Perez 69 b71 69 67, Ryan Moore 67 67 71 71
277 Dustin Johnson 69 70 69 69, Patrick Reed 70 65 72 70 Brendan Steele 72 67 67 71
278 Tony Finau 70 68 70 70, William McGirt 70 69 66 73, Jimmy Walker 65 70 70 73
279 Jim Herman 67 71 72 69, Jason Day (Aus) 70 69 70 70
280 Cody Gribble 69 72 69 70, Brandt Snedeker 70 70 69 71, Daniel Berger 68 70 70 72
281 Rod Pampling (Aus) 69 71 71 60, Charley Hoffman 71 70 71 69, Russell Knox (Sco) 71 69 68 73
282 Fabian Gomez 70 68 71 73.

Neville Leck

Send your comments to neville@golfweather.com.

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