KAPALUA, Hawaii – Hideki Matsuyama was five shots behind Justin Thomas standing on the 14th tee. Two holes later he was standing over a putt to be tied for the lead.
Matsuyama missed that putt, and then three-putted the 17th hole and finished the SBS Tournament of Champions in second place, three strokes behind Thomas. But for a brief moment, the result was in question.
On the par-4 14th hole, Matsuyama made eagle when he holed a flop shot from thick rough short left of the green. Thomas made a mess out of the par-5 15th hole when he blew his second shot in the hazard and made double bogey. Matsuyama stood over a makeable birdie putt to tie for the lead, but made par.
Still, even though Thomas won, Matsuyama remains the hottest player in the game. In his last six event he has four victories and two second-place finishes, both coming at the hands of Thomas.
The Farmers Insurance Open and the Waste Management Phoenix Open are up next for Matsuyama, 24, who continues to still have one eye on the Masters in April. He knows there’s one thing he needs to work on over the next three months in order to contend for his first major championship.
“I’ll concentrate on the short game,” he said. “But I can’t forget my full swing, either.”