KAPALUA, Hawaii – Justin Thomas won the SBS Tournament of Champions to collect his third PGA Tour victory and he is the first to win twice on Tour this season. It got close down the stretch with Hideki Matsuyama but Thomas essentially sealed the deal with a laser approach into the 17th green. Here are a few takeaways from Sunday at Kapalua:
• Justin Thomas was not kidding when he said earlier in the week that he no longer shows up to events just to collect nice finishes. When he shows up he now expects to win. Every time.
This victory was impressive from beginning to end and seems like a bit of a breakthrough even though he had won twice before.
Thomas is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2013 to win two of his first four events of the season and he’s one of four players in the last 10 years with at least three Tour victories before age 24 (Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy). The victory will vault him to No. 12 in the world ranking.
“Changes things going forward because I know I’m coming back here next year, so I couldn’t be more excited about that,” he said. “I stumbled more than I would have liked to on some of those holes but I think it really shows where my game is at right now. I had some woes there the second part of the nine, but I stuck it out to still get it done.”
• Hideki Matsuyama, take a bow. He got to within a shot of Thomas after the 15th hole but just couldn’t hang on and finished second place by three shots.
Golf is hard, but Matsuyama has made it look easy lately. In his last six events he has four victories and two second-place finishes. Both those runner-up performances, oddly enough, were to Thomas.
“The results have been there these past couple of months, so in that respect, yes, I am looking forward to another good year,” he said.
• Jordan Spieth is already onto Waialae. He made more birdies than anyone else in the field this week but he couldn’t avoid a couple big numbers that truly prevented him from contending. Still he shot a final-round 65 to vault up into a third-place tie.
Two years ago Spieth finished second at Kapalua, went to the Sony Open and missed the cut. Last year he skipped Sony because he had a more rigorous schedule overseas but he’ll be back this year and feels great about his chances.
“(Caddie) Michael (Greller) has told me for the last couple years….‘Waialae is one of the best courses on Tour for you,’” Spieth said Sunday. “‘It’s almost like your Hilton Head, your Colonial, you have to kind of strike it around both ways and playing in the wind,’ and we feel like that kind of plays to our strength, kind of trickier reads on the greens.”
• Dustin Johnson was quiet all week and then popped up into a sixth-place tied after a final-round 69 in which he hit all 18 greens in regulation.
The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year won the weather-plagued event here in 2013 and has four top-10 finishes in six appearances, but this seems like a place where Johnson should win almost every year because of his prodigious length.
This year, however, it was the putter that kept him from a better result.
“I lipped out maybe 12 or 13 putts at least,” he said. “Like pretty bad lip-outs. But overall I’m happy with the way I played. I thought I played really well. You know, just missed a lot of putts.”