Monday, January 09, 2017

Justin Thomas wins in Hawaii as 

Russell Knox slumps to T17 finish
KAPALUA, Hawaii – Notes and observations from Sunday’s final round of the SBS Tournament of Champions, where Justin Thomas claimed his second win of the season by holding off Hideki Matsuyama.
Par 292 (4x73) Players from USA unless stated
270 Justin Thomas 67 67 67 69
273 Hideki Matsuyama (Japan) 69 68 66 70
276 Jordan Spieth 72 69 70 65, Pat Perez 69 71 69 67, Ryan Moore 67 67 7` 7`
277 Dustin Johnson 69 70 69 69, Patrick Reed 70 65 72 70, Brendan Steele 72 67 67 71
279 Jason Day (Australia) 70 69 70 70 (T12)
281 Russell Knox (Scotland) 71 69 68 73 (T17).

Russell Knox was heading for at least a top 10 finish in the US PGA Tour's opening event of 2017, the SBS Tournament of Champions, over the Plantation Course at Kapalua, Hawaii after rounds of 71, 69 and 68.
But the Florida-based Scot from Inverness could "only" match the par of 73 in the final round and at this level of play that means a player is going nowhere but down the field. He eventually finished a disappointing tied 17th with an 11-under-par aggregate of 281 - 11 behind the winner, American Justin Thomas who shot 67, 67, 67 and 69 to win by three from Japan's consistent Hideki Matsuyama
Knox killed his hopes early with a triple bogey 7 at the third although he responded with birdies at the fourth, fifth and sixth to turn in par 36.
He also matched the inward par of 37 with birdies at the 10th and 18th, and bogeys at the 13th and 15th


Justin Thomas refuses to look too far ahead these days. 
Forget the fact he has virtually locked up a spot in the TOUR Championship and a shot at the FedExCup. Forget the fact he will almost certainly join Team USA in the Presidents Cup. Forget the fact he is now just outside the top 10 in the world. 
After claiming his second win of the season, Thomas is already shifting his thinking to the Sony Open next week – albeit with a slight detour in focus heading towards his alma mater Alabama and their national championship football game against Clemson on Monday.
The maturity growth is quite visible. Thomas has gone from a sometimes-frustrated kid - stuck around the shadows of fellow young stars like Jordan Spieth, and the man he conquered again in Hideki Matsuyama - to a determined young man carving out a significant narrative of his own.
“I think it drove me a lot. I wasn't mad, but it was maybe a little frustrating sometimes seeing some friends and peers my age do well,” Thomas admitted. 
“Not because I wasn't cheering for them because I feel like I was as good as them. It's just immature of me. I mean, the fact of the matter is, over the course of a long career, we're going to beat each other. That's just how it is.

“I think now, I feel so much more comfortable. I really do. Maybe the first time in Malaysia when I won, I was maybe kind of like, what am I doing here, but now it's like, okay, I belong here, I should be here.”
Spieth is expecting the great form to be far from fleeting. He was there to congratulate his friend on the 18th green.
“I think it's potentially floodgates opening,” he said of Thomas. 
“The guy hits it forever. He's got a really, really nifty short game. He manages the course well.
“So really excited for him. It's awesome. It's awesome to see. He's going to be tough to beat next week, too.”
Thomas prefers to keep his goals secret but did reveal he’s far from satisfied with just the two wins in 2016-17.
“I still have plenty of other goals that I would like to achieve and stuff that's over the long-term, the course of the year,” Thomas said.
“I'm going to have to regroup and focus on next week, because next week is a course that I really like and I feel like another good opportunity for me to be in the hunt and have a chance to win.

“I think that's where I'm growing a little bit more in that it's week-to-week. It's not looking at previous weeks when I'm at a tournament or looking at following events when I'm at a tournament; it's I am focusing on that week. And once it's over, take the positives, try to blow over the negatives and go on to the next.”


In his last six starts around the world Hideki Matsuyama has won four times and finished second twice. On both occasions he lost, the winner was Justin Thomas. 
Down by five shots with five to play Matsuyama could’ve been forgiven for believing his chances were gone but a sublime eagle on the 14th hole and a double bogey from Thomas on the 15th hole set the contest alight. 
Ultimately a three-putt on 17 cruelled his chances of avenging his loss at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia but the Japanese star remains upbeat as he heads to the Sony Open next week.
“Justin had a little trouble at 15 and then I was really in it. But my putter let me down there at 16, 17 and 18,” Matsuyama said.
“I tipped my hat to Justin. He played well all day long. Had a little hiccup there at 15, but I just say congratulations to him. He deserved it.”
With both players in the Sony Open field the new-found rivalry is set to continue between the top two players in the FedExCup. 
Matsuyama is now just 36 points ahead of Thomas in the season long points race. 
It may be months away but the two also look set to be rivals in the Presidents Cup.


After 36 holes defending champion Jordan Spieth had already claimed he could not hold onto his SBS Tournament of Champions title and while he ultimately turned out to be right he certainly came home strong on Sunday. 
Spieth shot a final round 8-under 65 in the toughest conditions of the week on the Plantation Course to rocket from T19 to T3, leading the field with 26 birdies for the week. 
If not for his second round stumbles - where he had a double bogey and a triple bogey amongst nine birdies - the 2015 FedExCup champion would have been right in the mix.
The final round flurry has Spieth very confident as he heads for the Sony Open next week, just a quick island jump over to Honolulu.
“(My confidence is) high. Very high. I was told 26 birdies and an eagle this week, which certainly should be good enough on this course to win the tournament but unfortunately had a couple big numbers,” Spieth said.

“But when those birdies and eagles are there, that's a huge confidence boost. That means I'm able to convert, and the other stuff is actually easier to get rid of. 
“The big numbers are easier to dial back, just be a little bit more consistent, versus if I had made 16 birdies, no bogeys. Then I'm trying to figure out how to convert more. So I like it this way a bit better."
Spieth was also happy with his ability to tighten his wedge play as the week progressed. 


World No.1 Jason Day will spend a couple of days in Maui to rid himself of any frustrations before heading to Palm Springs for some intense practice after he finished outside the top 10 in Kapalua for the first time in four attempts.
Day returned to action after a three-month sabbatical to rehab a back injury and found himself overly and unnecessarily frustrated with his T12 performance, nine shots back of winner Justin Thomas.
“It was up-and-down. Obviously, there's a lot of soft mistakes out there with the short game,” Day said. 
“I've got to re-learn to control my emotions again, deep down inside, not get too frustrated with myself.”
Day and his family will remain in Maui for a few days for some vacation time before he heads to his Palm Springs practice facility at the Vintage Club.
Once there he will begin a short game boot camp with coach and caddie Col Swatton in preparation for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, a title he won in 2015.
“Just really crush the short game. The two weeks (practice) is going to be very important,” Day said of his plans.
“Obviously it was important to see how my back reacted over this week. It worked great. I didn't have any issues with that. 
“I know the irons have got to come in just a little bit tighter but for the most part just work on that short game. I think if I can get back to where I was last year, that I should be ready for Torrey.”



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