Monday Finish: Thomas back to old tricks in Maui
Picks up third win in Hawaii with playoff victory
January 06, 2020
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Justin Thomas' winning highlights from Sentry
Justin Thomas looks unbeatable for the first 15 holes, but the wind seems to catch up to him (as it did everyone else) as he struggles over the final three. When it counts, though, and under the most extreme pressure, he birdies the 18th hole twice in three tries in the playoff, dusting off first Patrick Reed and then defending champion Xander Schauffele.
With his 12th PGA TOUR win, Thomas moves into pole position in the FedExCup. He also slides into third place behind only Tiger Woods (34) and Jack Nicklaus (20) for most wins before age 27 over the last 60 years. Oh, and he’s the first TOUR winner of the new decade.
Welcome to the Monday Finish.
THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS
1. Thomas regrouped. The ending was topsy-turvy, with first Thomas and then Schauffele failing to secure the win after having one hand on the trophy on the 18th hole in regulation. The first unforced error was Thomas’ crazy second shot that wound up in the penalty area, leading to a bogey 6. He later called the hole “just a disaster.” Then came Schauffele’s inability to two-putt from roughly 35 feet, his first effort trickling some seven feet past the pin. “I should have won the tournament. I know it. Everyone knows it.” Out came Patrick Reed to join them in a playoff, but it was Thomas who regrouped better than either of the other two, making two birdies in the three times he was forced to play the 18th in overtime.
2. He was a mid-round superstar. How good were Thomas’ four straight birdies from holes 8-11 at windy Kapalua as he took control of the tournament? His tee shot at the par-3 11th was the closest to the pin all day, and he was the only one to even get within 10 feet. But maybe it’s best to let playing partner Xander Schauffele put the winner’s mid-round hot streak in context. “It was windy,” Schauffele said. “That stretch of holes J.T. went 4- or 5-under, I’d like to see anyone else try it. He was hitting ridiculous shots, making good putts in the wind…”
3. He is Mr. Hawaii. “For some reason I was supposed to win this week,” Thomas said. Maybe that reason is he is imminently comfortable playing in Hawaii, where since 2015 he is 131 under par in the two official TOUR events there. Next best: Jimmy Walker at 93 under. Thomas was a ball-striking machine at Kapalua, ranking second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, SG: Approach-the-Green, and Proximity to the Hole. He was third in Greens in Regulation.
Wind golf is hard. Of his three-putt on the last hole of regulation, Schauffele said, “I got gusted.” What he meant was his first effort, from about 35 feet, seemed to get blown about seven feet past the hole, leaving a tricky comebacker, which he missed. “I guess I’ll have to work on some wind-putting,” he said. He wasn’t the only one. Patrick Reed also used the “gusted” term in his post-round remarks. “Unfortunately I had two putts really to close it, and one of them got gusted on,” Reed said, “and then this last one, with the wind and the break, just got me again.”
Thomas, Spieth neck and neck. Friends, competitors and co-valedictorians for the Class of 2011, Thomas and Spieth have drawn several comparisons. Here are two more: With his 12th win, Thomas takes a slim lead over Spieth (11), who once enjoyed a sizeable lead. Also, Thomas made seven birdies in the final round, which was his 54th round with seven or more birdies on TOUR since 2015. He is second only to, yes, Spieth (55).
“I know it’s hard, but I made it about five times as hard as it needed to be.” – Justin Thomas, after prevailing despite a bogey 6 on the last hole of regulation.
“Just sort of a rookie move trying to close out a tournament.” – Xander Schauffele on his three-putt at the 72nd hole to fall into a playoff with Thomas and Reed.
“I was 8 under through 21 holes, so it was great golf as a whole.” – Patrick Reed (66, T2), who lost to Thomas on the third hole of the playoff.