Thomas overcomes adversity, gains confidence
January 09, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Justin Thomas interview after Round 4 of SBSFollowing his final-round 69 at the 2017 SBS Tournament of Champions, Justin Thomas talks about the condition of his game and feels confident about the upcoming season.
KAPALUA, Hawaii - Welcome to the Monday Finish, where we will be a little sad to move on from the beautiful island of Maui but take solace in the fact it’s just a short island hop to Oahu.
Here’s five observations from the SBS Tournament of Champions where Justin Thomas became the first multiple winner in the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season:
1. Justin Thomas is ultra-confident in his ability and his game – and he should be. While his three-shot victory over Hideki Matsuyama wasn’t flawless - it was bold, it was exciting, it was further proof he’s on his way towards elite status in the game. He now has three PGA TOUR wins in 73 starts at just 23-years-old. It is a trajectory that could have him amongst the top contenders in the majors in 2017. He notched up seven top 10s in 2014-15, seven more in 2015-16 and is three from four to start 2016-17, with two wins.
2. Perhaps the most impressive part of both wins this season for Thomas is his ability to bounce back from some adversity. At the CIMB Classic Thomas turned around a tough third round and kicked on when challenges came in the final round. In Maui Thomas led by five with five to play but in just moments, via a Matsuyama eagle and then a double bogey of his own, Thomas had just one shot between him and the Japanese star. With oil leaking, against a player who had won four of his last five starts, Thomas could have easily folded. But after watching Matsuyama miss a chance to tie on the 16th hole Thomas produced a clutch approach to the 17th, setting up a birdie and the win.
3. Hideki Matsuyama may have been beaten by Thomas for the second time this season but he remains the form player in golf right now. Four wins and two seconds in his last six worldwide starts is an incredible run. During the run Matsuyama won the Japan Open (Japan Golf Tour), was 2nd at the CIMB Classic (PGA TOUR), won the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions (PGA TOUR), won the Taiheyo Masters (Japan Golf Tour), won the Hero World Challenge (unofficial PGA TOUR event) and was now 2nd at the SBS Tournament of Champions (PGA TOUR). He was 3rd in his only previous performance at Kapalua in 2015. He gets the chance to add to his resume (as does Thomas) when he tees it up again this week at the Sony Open. Matsuyama remains the FedExCup leader, by 36 points over Thomas.
4. Jordan Spieth seems to have a knack around the Plantation course at Kapalua, much the same as he does at Augusta National. Before beginning his title defense he highlighted the uneven lies and the amount of slope as positives. Spieth believes it is in his golf DNA to play on courses like this where he prefers to rely on his feel. And the results prove his point. In three starts on the Plantation Course Spieth has been 2nd, 1st and T3. His record at Augusta is 2nd, 1st, 2nd. This week he led the field with 26 birdies and could have easily been celebrating another win had he not had some blowout holes.
5. Jason Day made a reasonable return from his long injury layoff but will need to find his touch in the next few weeks if he is to remain on top of the world rankings for the year like he hopes to. Day ranked second last in the field in driving accuracy, not great on a course with wide fairways. He talked of shortening his swing for back protection and accuracy but it appears he still needs to knock some rust off his game. His usually brilliant putting was also missing, with the world No.1 missing seven putts inside 7-feet for the week.Jordan Spieth recorded more birdies (26) than any player in the field at Kapalua. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
1. Thomas is just the 4th player with three or more PGA TOUR victories before turning 24 in the FedExCup era. He joins Jordan Spieth (8), Rory McIlroy (6) and Patrick Reed (3). Thomas’ win is the fifth by a player in his 20s this season (Thomas/2, Hideki Matsuyama, Cody Gribble, Mackenzie Hughes), compared to one winner in his 30s (Brendan Steele) and two in their 40s (Rod Pampling, Pat Perez).
2. Thomas packs a punch from the teebox and 43% of his total strokes gained came from his performance off-the-tee. For the week, he outperformed the field by +1.225 strokes per round ranking 3rd in the field. There were seven total drives over 400 yards on the Plantation Course at Kapalua this year. Thomas (2) and Dustin Johnson (3) where the only two players to hit multiple drives over 400 yards for the week.
3. Thomas was dialed-in with his approach game ranking inside the top five in several approach categories. No one was better from outside 200 yards than Thomas. His field leading 32’ 9” average was 23 feet better than the field average of 55’ 10”. Starting on the 12th hole in the opening round, Thomas went on to hit a career best 31 consecutive greens in regulation. This stretch of 31 greens including going a perfect 18 of 18 in the 2nd round marking the first time in his career where he had hit every green in a round on the PGA TOUR.
4. Matsuyama’s 70 in the final round snaps a streak of 13 consecutive rounds in the in the 60s on the PGA TOUR dating back to his second-round 71 at the TOUR Championship. In his last 12 rounds, Matsuyama is a combined 62 under par.
5. Thomas now sits 2nd on the points list for a place on Steve Stricker’s President’s Cup team in New York. It remains a long way off but Dustin Johnson leads the way on the standings with Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Daniel Berger and Ryan Moore currently relatively entrenched amongst the contenders.
TOP 3 VIDEOS
1. Matsuyama made it interesting down the stretch thanks to this eagle chip-in on the par-4 14th.
Shot of the Day
Hideki Matsuyama's eagle hole out is the Shot of the Day
2. Justin Thomas led by five shots with five holes to play. He saw that lead reduced to just one when Matsuyama eagled the par-4 14th and Thomas made double bogey on 15. It was Thomas' approach from 214 yards on the par-4 17th that landed just 3 feet from the pin that slammed the door and all but secured the win.
Justin Thomas dials it in on the 71st hole at SBS
3. What's better than sharing a win with friends and family? Thomas' win was the first of his career with his parents there to share in the celebration. They couldn't stop smiling. He also had a couple of friends there to congratulate him after the victory.