A new American star has been born. Justin Thomas was brilliant from start to finish at Waialae to win his second consecutive tournament, his third win in five starts. Thomas backed up his 59 with a Friday 64 to open up a 5-shot lead over Gary Woodland heading into the weekend, setting a PGA Tour 36-hole scoring record. On the weekend, Thomas continued his stellar week, growing his lead to 7 shots after a Saturday 65 and finishing 7 shots clear of Justin Rose after a closing 65. It was a historic week as Thomas’ birdie on his final hole, for a total of 253, broke Tommy Armour III’s long-standing record for lowest 72-hole score by one shot. During his record-breaking week, Thomas ranked 1st in strokes gained: off the tee, strokes gained: tee to green and strokes gained: putting, quite the recipe for success.
With the win, the 23-year-old Thomas moved to 8th in the world rankings and collected his 4th career win. Thomas’ recent play is thrusting him into the ultra-elite ranks of the game and proving him a threat to win any tournament.
Another 59 bid falls short
Looking to rebound from a disappointing 2016, Kevin Kisner got the season off to a strong start finishing in t4th place. His high finish was thanks to a stellar Saturday, which saw the 32-year-old pro shoot a career best 60 at Waialae C.C. Kisner had a 9-foot putt for 59 on the par 5-9th but missed it on the high side, settling for a 10-birdie, no-bogey round of 60. It was the first time a tournament has had players shoot 59 and 60 since Paul Goydos and Steve Stricker did so at the 2010 John Deere Classic.
Taken by Storm
Journeyman Graeme Storm entered Sunday’s finale of the SA Open with a 3-shot lead over world number 2, Rory McIlroy. Storm’s position in the event is even more surprising when you consider the fact that he lost his playing privileges on the European Tour last season, missing the Race to Dubai by a couple hundred dollars until Patrick Reed decided not to play in the playoffs, giving Storm a spot and his card back.
On Sunday, Storm was able to weather an early surge from McIlroy and keep his composure, even with the star routinely bombing 350+ yard tee shots and making the 7,500+ yard Glendower Golf Club look like a pitch and putt. McIlroy looked to be taking control of the tournament after he birdied the par-5 13th and a Storm bogey on the 14th gave him the lead with just 4 remaining, but McIlroy’s bogey on the par-3 17th let Storm back in it and the two ended up in a playoff. Playing the difficult 451-yard par-4 18th for the playoff hole, the pair traded pars twice before McIlroy blinked on the third go-around, missing the green and failing to convert an 8’ par putt to extend the playoff. This was Storm’s second win on the European Tour, the other win coming 9 ½ years ago!
McIlroy’s strong play signals that his big equipment change won’t have a transition period, but a dark cloud hangs over his strong performance due to a potential back injury McIlroy incurred during Friday’s round. McIlroy will head to Dubai to get an MRI and an evaluation done.
In Toto control
With a spot in the Masters on the line, Central and South America’s best amateurs teed it up at the Golf Club of Panama for the 3rd playing of the Latin American Amateur. Heading into the 72nd hole, Chile’s Toto Gana held a one-shot lead over countryman Joaquín Niemann and Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz (Carlos Ortiz’ brother). On the final hole, Gana’s drive found the fairway bunker leading to a missed green and opening the door for Niemann and Ortiz, who both found the green in regulation. Both failed to convert their birdie putts, leaving Gana a 10’ putt for par and a trip to Augusta. The putt missed on the low side, leading to a 3-man playoff. The trio halved the first hole with pars. On the second hole, Niemann and Ortiz missed the green, giving Toto another chance to seize the championship. This time Gana rose to the occasion, sticking a wedge to mere inches from the hole and winning the Latin American Amateur and his invitation to the Masters.
Golf is cruel.
Austin fires 59 on Champions Tour and teams with former MLB star Mulder to win Diamond Resorts Invitational.
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