Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm light up Kapalua with course record 61’s
January 08, 2022
By Ben Everill , PGATOUR.COM
Justin Thomas goes 6-under through five holes at Sentry
KAPALUA, Hawaii – Two-time Sentry Tournament of Champions winner Justin Thomas added the Plantation Course record to his Kapalua superlatives, only to have his new mark matched by world No.1 Jon Rahm just hours later in Saturday’s third round.
The pair shot blistering 12-under 61’s with Thomas surging up the leaderboard early before settling into a tie for eighth with a round to go.
His place in the record books alone was short-lived as Rahm put on a clinic during an incredible battle with overnight leader Cameron Smith. Rahm’s 61 sent him to 26-under for the tournament, joining Smith (64) at the top of the leaderboard. The lead pair are five clear of the nearest chasers.
Pre-tournament favorite Thomas sat dead last after the opening round thanks to a pedestrian 1-over 74 and while he bounced back with a 67 on Friday, he was still miles behind pace-setter Smith.
But on Saturday in perfect conditions the 2017 and 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions winner notched up two eagles and eight birdies in a scintillating effort. The 28-year-old played the last seven holes in seven under and barely missed a 22-foot eagle try on the final hole for a 60.
“I didn't do anything crazy, just took advantage of all the easy opportunities and chances that I had and hit a lot of really good drives, quality iron shots and wedges in there to, again, if there's such a thing as an easy 12-under, I definitely felt like it was,” Thomas said afterwards.
“I wasn't crazy aggressive today. When you have wedges in your hand with soft greens you attack. It doesn't matter if you're in last or first. You're just trying to make birdies and I felt like that's what I did.”
Rahm was even par on his round through four holes after a loose tee shot was lost on the fourth before notching up an eagle and 10 birdies over his last 14. He finished with a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie flourish.
“It was fun,” Rahm said. “The first few holes are birdieable, but you come out the gates, it's almost like a little bit of a warmup and then you get to 5 and with a good tee shot it's reachable and very accessible, actually. I hit a 9-iron today and yesterday. So it kind of gets you going. You get on the birdie train and things like today can happen.”
The pair beat the previous record of 62, held by Xander Schauffele, Jason Day, Chris Kirk, Graeme McDowell and K.J. Choi. It was his fifth round of 61 or less since 2015, the most of any player on TOUR. While he found just 11 of 15 fairways off the tee Thomas hit all 18 greens in regulation and made 113-feet, 3-inches worth of putts.
Kentucky native Thomas will likely need to replicate his heroics on Sunday and have some help if he is to add a third title at the Plantation Course given he sits nine shots back. But while victory might be beyond his grasp it was still important to him to surge as high as possible.
“When I looked up and was in last, I felt like that was pretty humbling,” Thomas said.
“But I felt like yesterday closing that round out at least gave myself a chance to get a respectable week, respectable finish out of it, and if I did something berserk this weekend, I might have a chance to win.”
He now holds the course record at both Hawaii stops on the PGA TOUR having also shot a 59 at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu during his 2017 victory in the Sony Open.
“It's fun. Every golf course you go to there's a scorecard in the locker room… whether the people know me or not or whether they know whoever shot the course record or not, it seems like that's kind of a part of the club at that time. So, it definitely means something,” he said of course records.
“I still remember my first. It was a Junior World practice round. I can't remember the name of the golf course. I was like probably nine years old. It was like an executive course. I just remember because Tiger had the course record, and I remember beating him and it was like the coolest thing obviously I had ever done at that time.
“Something tells me it's not still standing. But that was the first one I had ever broken and I was pretty pumped about that.”