After extending his lead to a commanding five shots on the front nine of the final round, Justin Thomas was able to survive some shaky shots and a hard-charging Hideki Matsuyama to earn his third career PGA Tour victory Sunday at the SBS Tournament of Champions.
With the win, Thomas injects himself into the conversation of best young American and hopefully sheds the “Jordan Spieth’s best friend” monicker that the Golf Channel lazily rolls out every time he is shown.
Thomas’ previous two wins came at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia – a good tournament with a decent field, but it takes place in October and generally fails to generate any buzz. A prominent win like this will propel Thomas to a strong 2017 and raise his stature among the Tour’s top players.
Thomas, who came into the final round with a three shot lead, was in total control of his game until the his tee shot on the ninth hole.
Thomas snapped his drive into the tall grass and was lucky to find his ball and salvage a par.
After Thomas steadied the ship, Matsuyama holed a 40 yard shot for eagle on 14 to cut the lead to three and changed the tone of the final round.
Matsuyama needed to make a statement.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 8, 2017
Then, on the par-5 15th, Thomas striped his drive down the middle, but caught his second shot fat and found the hazard. Thomas ended up doubling the hole and his margin over Matsuyama was just one shot.
After both players parred 16, Thomas hit the shot of the tournament with an eight-iron to four feet with his second shot on 17. Thomas converted the birdie, while Matsuyama three-putted and thus ending his chances.
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) January 9, 2017
No one is playing better than Thomas or Matsuyama at the moment. In his last six worldwide starts, Matsuyama has four wins and two runners-up. Both of those second place finishes came to Thomas – first in October’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia and then again Sunday.
At 5’10”, 145 pounds, Thomas is hardly the most intimidating figure on the PGA Tour, but he unleashed mammoth drives all week. Combined with the blustery Hawaiian winds and sharp undulating slopes, Thomas was able to top 400 yards on multiple occasions throughout the tournament.
Otter Room Picks:
Not bad for the first week. Our pick to win it was Matsuyama who had his chances before finishing second. Our dark horse pick, Pat Perez, finished tied for the third, but his hair stole the show. He was quoted as saying that it actually got in the way of his swing a couple of times.
Sidenote – the early favorite for headline of the year was a Golf Week Piece was titled “Pat Perez Finds Paradise After A Lot of Food and Booze in 2016.”
Thomas’ victory is validation of a ton of hype for a young player. It solidifies him as a top ten player and gives him plenty of momentum for remaining events on the west coast swing.
Stay tuned to The Otter Room this week for a complete preview of the upcoming Sony Open.