A rising star
Sunday at Kapalua saw a showdown between two of golf’s brightest young stars, Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama. Thomas held a two-shot advantage heading into the final round, and after a hot start it looked as though he may run away with the championship. But late on the back nine, Matsuyama surged into contention with an eagle on the par-4 14th, and Thomas made a costly swing on the 15th that led to a double bogey. Suddenly he led by just one shot. The 23-year-old Thomas was able to regroup quickly, making par on the 16th and then hitting the shot of the tournament on the tough par-4 17th, sticking his approach shot to 2 ½ feet for a tap-in birdie.
Matsuyama failed to answer Thomas’ haymaker, 3-putting for a bogey and giving Thomas a 3-shot lead with just the 18th to play. Thomas closed with a birdie to finish at 22 under par and earn his third career win. This win was his second in his last four starts and moves him up to a career-high 12th in the world rankings.
New year, same Hideki
Although he failed to finish off his comeback, Matsuyama looked like the same dominant player who closed out 2016 with four wins in his last five starts. Ironically, Matsuyama’s only non-win during that stretch came at the CIMB Classic, where he finished runner-up to Thomas. Over the past two months, the 24-year-old Matsuyama has put together an incredible run that has vaulted him into the mix for the crown of “best young player without a major championship”. This April, I expect Matsuyama to be a legitimate contender at Augusta, a course where he has already had a lot of success in his young career.
William McGirt continued his strong play from 2016 and found himself in contention during Sunday’s final round before fading on the back nine to finish in a tie for 9th.
A slow start and a couple big numbers cost Jordan Spieth defending his title; the superstar fired a Sunday 65 to surge into a tie for 3rd.
Jason Day played really slow.
A great showcase
The Web.com Tour started a test this week, implementing a Sunday-Wednesday tournament schedule in an attempt to bring more exposure to America’s 2nd best professional golf tour. The event’s opening round garnered plenty of attention, more so because of the record high scoring and brutal weather conditions rather than the young stars’ stellar play. Despite winds gusting over 50 mph, Web.com Tour officials sent the players out on Greg Norman’s Sandals Emerald Bay, a seaside disaster, whose overly-penal, hazard-riddled design (coupled with the absurd winds) wrecked havoc on players.
Due to the poor weather, not all of the players have finished one round, but the damage has been done. Sunday’s average score was 81.5, and three players failed to break 90. The early contender for round of the year is Web.com Tour rookie Tom Lovelady, who battled through the brutal conditions to post an even-par 72. Follow along with live scores from the Bahamas here and catch live coverage on the Golf Channel at 3pm EST.
A systemic problem
Last week, Golf Digest released their bi-annual list of America’s Greatest Golf Courses. Here’s my in-depth look at the flawed rating system and how it could actually be harmful to the game.
Worth your time: The Independent sits down with Rory McIlroy for an in-depth interview.
Sources say Furyk is set to become 2018 Ryder Cup Captain.
Soly rips through your latest questions in the January Mailbag on what he’s expecting in 2017, if Jason Day is becoming golf’s villain, how he expects Rory to adjust to his new equipment and much more.
The Ambassador Collection
A tribute to the PGA Tour’s ambassador of #TourSauce, Justin Thomas, from his 2nd round at Kapalua. Get your hoodie or a t-shirt today.