There’s only one player eligible for the 2018 edition!
Congratulations Justin Thomas on his victory!
Justin Thomas was for the second time in eight events in the 20-16-17 season as he lifted the trophy at the SBS Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course and Kapalua Resort and Spa on Maui. The 23-year old Thomas posted 22-under-par 270 to best Hideki Matsuyama by three shots. A trio of golfers led by Jordan Spieth rounded off the podium three further shots adrift.
For the second time in eight events this season Justin Thomas held off the hottest player on the planet in a limited field event. The last six times Hideki Matsuyama has teed it up he’s won four times and finished runner up to Thomas twice. Thomas, who defended his title at the CIMB Classic in October, is the only player who has beaten Matsuyama anywhere in the world since The Tour Championship. The 23-year old has now picked up three wins in the last 14 months and becomes the first multiple winner of the young season.
Thomas has flashed plenty of moments over the last two years that have not gone unnoticed by weekly gamers and season-long investors. His weekly value is clear as the waters off the Maui coast but his long-term value poses an interesting question for season-long gamers who haven’t drafted their teams yet. He’s a lock for the FEC Playoffs and final event at East Lake but with three top 10’s and two wins, has he already run his race? The last players to win more than twice in a season are Dustin Johnson (three in 2016), Jordan Spieth (five in 2015) and Jason Day (five in 2015). All three also won a major championship as part of their run. Gamers will have a very big question to ask but Thomas has won at every level so this isn’t unfamiliar territory. At 23, he’s still chasing his buddy Spieth and is two majors behind so I don’t see him “disappearing” but asking him to bag a couple more wins this season will test the patience of most gamers.
For those of you already on board with him, bravo. After making $2.27 million as a rookie and $4.1 million last year, there wasn’t much surprise moving forward. After being snubbed for the Ryder Cup, Thomas was given an opportunity to practice with the team at Hazeltine and is proving his case for Paris in 2018. He’ll surely be on the Presidents Cup squad come this fall and that extra experience couldn’t possibly hurt his confidence. The question now is not how but rather how many and can he move up into the next echelon that contains his buddy, “The Golden Child”, Spieth.
Thomas has proven over barely two years of PGA Tour golf that he has bags of talent. The evidence is in the $9million he’s won from just 62 events with a Tour card. At 23 he’s not going anywhere and the sky is the limit. I’m excited to see where the rest of this season takes him but I’ll be looking for him on courses where he can spray/smash it off the tee.
- With a three-shot lead on No. 15 on Sunday, he found OB from the middle of the fairway leading to double bogey.
- He rallied on the final three holes staking approaches to 10 feet, three feet and 25 feet (par five) and not letting one bad shot ruin his round.
- His two-shot lead after 54-holes was cut to one after 15 holes on Sunday but he never lost it or was tied.
- He was the only player to hit 20-under or lower for the week.
- Racked up 25 birdies (2nd) and an eagle (T-2).
- Squared only three bogeys (T-1) and only had one double.
- Led the field in SG:TTG and was second in GIR.
- He was T-1 in putts per GIR and fourth in SGP.
- He finished in the lower half in driving accuracy, which is hardly surprising, but he has a ton of power.
Past history at Kapalua:
- Finished T-21 in his only other appearance last year.
- Placed only half of his rounds in the 60’s and both were 69.
- He made 20 birdies last year and an eagle but had nine bogeys and a double.
- He increased the birdies and decreased the bogeys. Good plan that.
- Last year he was 29th in fairways and 26th in GIR so there’s not much of a mystery to see what the difference year-to-date was.
- I’ll prefer him on courses, as stated above, that he has a chance to swing the driver where it won’t get him in trouble.
- His numbers across the board last year were trending in the opposite direction even though he picked up his first win.
- His other best finishes include T-3 at THE PLAYERS and T-3 at Honda so those of you who haven’t burned him in OAD can start perhaps looking ahead. He also finished T-3 at the Travelers last summer.
- All three of his wins he’s posted 22-under or lower.
- Fantasy players shouldn’t care that his only three wins are limited field events. They ALL count in our world!
With this win:
- Collects $1,220,000.
- 500 FEC points
- Checks in at No. 12 in the OWGR, up from No. 21 last week.
- He’s beaten Matsuyama twice in eight events and has three top 10’s but is currently second in the FEC standings.
Plantation Course Hindsight:
Trends and stats from the week for next week and next year
- Only one first round leader in the last six years has gone on to win. Be patient.
- Of the 24 winners of this event, 23 have advanced to The Tour Championship. Poor Daniel Chopra.
- Low round of the week was just 65 so there was just enough wind to keep everyone’s attention.
- There were eight bogey-free rounds in round one and seven for the final three rounds.
- Thomas was the only player to stick all four rounds in the 60’s.
- The fourth time in the last five that a 20-something has won.
- Spieth led the way AGAIN this year with 26 birdies, down from the 28 he posted last year.
- The top 20 players were all double digits under par.
- First timers don’t usually fare well here and this year wasn’t any different. Tony Finau and William McGirt led the way at T-9 and never shot lower than 68.
- The hardest round was Sunday at 71.125.
- Plantation played almost three shots under par as it checked in at 70.375 for the week.
Kapalua has gone from a veteran’s paradise to youth movement in the last five years. Those young fellas, all of them are made of rubber and muscle, have no problem eating up the yardage and are fearless when attack pin placements. Spieth isn’t known as long and he rakes here plus Ryan Moore and William McGirt also hitting the top 10 reinforces that the shorter, accurate guys can also make noise. The rough was up because of the December rains but there was no weather to speak of during the tournament.
Hideki Matsuyama (2nd): I’ve lost count on how many rounds in a row he’s been under par. Big test for gamers coming at Waialae as that course has eaten his lunch four times (three MC’s and an MDF). Oh, and Justin Thomas is in the field.
Jordan Spieth (T-3): A week of “what if” as two doubles and a triple wiped out any chance of winning. Spieth reinforced his love for this track as he led the field in birdies for the second year in a row with 26 after circling 28 last year.
Pat Perez (T-3): I still have a hard time wrapping my head around a 40-something coming off shoulder surgery and playing the best golf of his life. He won his last time out and now adds a third consecutive top 10 in the new season. He’s played Kapalua twice and hit the top 10 each time.
Ryan Moore (T-3): He picked up his third top 10 in six tries on the Plantation course and continues his excellent run of form dating back to the JDC. He only made 16 birdies this week but only four bogeys and no others kept him in the chase for a podium spot.
Dustin Johnson (T-6): He finished 26th in SGP and 27th in PPGIR and still hit the top 10 for the fifth consecutive event here. He’s a machine whose “bad” is a top 15. Yahoo! gamers will be out of starts on him by the time we hit the U.S. Open!
Patrick Reed (T-6): He’s now 58-under over the last three years as he adds T-6 to his win and solo second. Not bad with only one round in the 60’s this week!
Brendan Steele (T-6): He hit only 36 of 60 fairways (30th) and just 56 of 72 greens (T-24) and still found a way to hit the top 10. He got the ball in the hole and avoided big numbers in his second trip to Maui. Impressive rounds of 67-67 in the middle two rounds were the highlight of his week.
Tony Finau (T-9): I have to believe that being able to swing the driver had to free him up this week. He lost strokes on the green everyday but that’s hardly surprising for a first timer. He made the most of his chances when he did find the fairways and greens as he registered in the top five of both SG:OTT and SG:TTG.
William McGirt (T-9): Tied with Finau for the low first-time starter of the week, McGirt had it to 18-under after eight holes on Sunday before he came home in 41. He was first in GIR, T-2 in fairways and 10th in SGP. That’s McGirt in a nutshell: consistent throughout the bag.
Jimmy Walker (T-9): His streak of 13 rounds in red figures came to an end on Sunday as he posted 73 to drop from T-3 to T-9. Boo hoo, another top 10 and he did it with a new, shorter driver in his bag. Another West Coast event, another top 10 and he has to be one of the favorites next week at Waialae.
Jim Herman (T-12): Here’s another first timer, and like Finau, his only top 10 last season was his win. Herman adapted quickly on the greens when he had chances (sixth, SGP) and hitting 62 of 72 of them took bogey out of play. He only made six bogeys and didn’t have doubles.
Jason Day (T-12): He never went low and that’s not surprising since he missed the entire fall to get healthy. His eagle on the final hole made him jump from T-17 so gamers who went in on him should be HAPPY. Season-long investors should also be HAPPY as he left the week unscathed.
Cody Gribble (T-14): He chalked up 22 birdies and led the field in SGP in his first appearance in paradise. His strong rookie year continues as he bags another very nice check in the best field he’s played yet. He picks up his fourth T-15 or better in six events with a Tour card.
Brandt Snedeker (T-14): He crushed my OAD dreams as he was 27th SGP and was third in pars made. This would be great in a U.S. Open but not on a track where 22-under was the winning score.
Daniel Berger (T-14): He was T-11 in GIR but 27th in putting and made half of his bogeys in the first six holes on Sunday. Remember, Thomas didn’t torch this joint on his first visit either.
Rod Pampling (T-17): The Aussie just missed out on the top half by a shot and beat a dozen guys I didn’t think he would. Bravo.
Charley Hoffman (T-17): Long-term investors will be happy to see he broke par in all four rounds after MC three times to start the new season. He’s never had much success here so this result shouldn’t be shocking.
Russell Knox (T-17): Believe it or not, this could have been worse as his final round 73 included a triple. After not being able to make anything on the greens last year, he rolled in 22 birdies this time and was in the top eight in both putting categories. Now that he’s covered both extremes he should put it all together next year, right?
Fabian Gomez (20th): He was second in SGP but was eighth in pars so he was making more saves than birdies. He couldn’t replicate his beginner’s luck from last season. He’ll defend this coming week at Waialae.
Jason Dufner (21st): Jumped out of the gate with 68-68 but cooled with 72-75 on the weekend. Over-par scores here are death and his final round 75 included two doubles on the final seven holes to twist the knife as he began the final round T-8.
Brian Stuard (T-22): He was T-30 in birdies and T-1 in pars which are a bad combo here.
James Hahn (T-22): One trend he kept for gamers was not playing well after a long layoff. He opened with 74 and it was all uphill from there. His 68 in round three was his best round from eight tries.
Vaughn Taylor (24th): His run of top 10’s here came to a crashing end and it’s hardly surprising as they were over a dozen years ago. He led the field in fairways reinforcing how meaningless this stat is at this event.
Mackenzie Hughes (T-25): The rookie recipe here is posting the best round of the week on Sunday once they “get it”. Hughes posted 68 in the final round after 73-72-73 to open.
Bubba Watson (T-25): After finishing 32nd (last) and 31st in SGP and PPGIR it’s no wonder why he finished where he did. After three consecutive years inside the top 10 he was by far the biggest disappointment of the week.
Greg Chalmers (28th): Bogeys aren’t a surprise for first timers here but he made 13, second most.
Billy Hurley, III (29th): I picked Chalmers to finish fifth bottom and Hurley to finish forth bottom. They did. THAT, MY FRIENDS, is skill. He finished dead last in PPGIR and birdies.
Jhonattan Vegas (T-30): He’s played eight rounds here and six of them are ABOVE par. His best round is 70, shot in round three this year. Not his jam.
Si Woo Kim (T-30): He had two of the three worst rounds of the week (75, 78) to open and close. I have to keep reminding myself he’s just 21.
Branden Grace (LAST): He finished DFL by a shot AFTER making birdies on his final three holes. That’s the result after hitting it all over the island and not holing any putts. Maybe he needs the short, tight, dog-leggy Waialae to get his attention like he did at the short, tight, dog-leggy Harbour Town.
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