Sony Open 2017
Round 4 - Record breaking win for Justin ThomasJanuary 16, 2017
One last putt. One more record. And two unforgettable weeks in Hawaii for Justin Thomas.
Thomas began the Sony Open with a 15-foot eagle putt on his final hole to shoot 59. He ended it Sunday with a two-putt birdie from 60 feet that gave him yet another entry in the PGA Tour record book for the lowest 72-hole score in history.
His final act was to stand before the members of Waialae Country Club, champagne flute in hand for the traditional toast. Thomas chugged it down, smiled and said to them, ''I think I had a glass with a hole in it.''
Bottoms up, kid.
The 23-year-old from Kentucky gave the best glimpse yet of his potential with a game that was at times overpowering and never more efficient. He closed with a 5-under 65 for a seven-shot victory, which gave him as much satisfaction as his score of 253 to set the record.
Thomas, who won the CIMB Classic in Malaysia last fall, became only the third player since 1970 to win three times in his first five tournaments to start a PGA Tour season. The others were Tiger Woods (three times) and Johnny Miller (twice).
His victory came one week after he won the SBS Tournament of Champions by three weeks at Kapalua.
''It's been an unbelievable week. Unforgettable,'' Thomas said before going to sign his historic card.
Thomas was more nervous than ever when he arrived Sunday from endless mentions that no one had ever lost a seven-shot lead on the PGA Tour. No one got closer than five shots all day, and with four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn, Thomas took aim at the record book.
That was his only real challenge Sunday.
Tommy Armour held the previous 72-hole mark at 254 in the 2003 Texas Open. Thomas also set the 36-hole record (123) and tied Steve Stricker for the 54-hole record (188). And while his 18-hole score of 59 is no longer a record, it's still a magic number.
''I'm not joking when I say I won the other tournament,'' Justin Rose said after a 64 that was only good for second place. ''Had he had a bad day, I was there to pick up the pieces. But that was never going to happen. He's on cruise control right now.''
Rose beat out Jordan Spieth, who also was playing for second place. Spieth shot 63 and finished alone in third.
The first full-field event of the year on the PGA Tour was a one-man show.
''He's got full control of his game, full confidence, and he's executing under pressure,'' Spieth said. ''It's a lot of fun to see. Certainly stuff that myself and a lot of our peers have seen going back almost 10 years now. He's certainly showing the world what he's capable of.''
Thomas joined Ernie Els in 2003 as the only players to sweep Hawaii, and this performance might have been even better. Thomas was 49-under par for his two weeks, compared with Els at 47 under.
He said on Friday that he hasn't ''shown the world my best golf.'' He came pretty close these last two weeks.
''I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm playing OK,'' Thomas said. ''I would take the golf I played the last few weeks every week I play.''
He moved to No. 8 in the world.
Thomas, thinking more about the trophy and another record when he started the final round, took no chances early on. He was 1 over through seven holes, making a soft bogey with a three-putt from 45 feet on No. 4 and a tough par save on No. 6, and still no one got closer than five shots.
But when he poured in a 20-foot birdie putt on the eighth, Thomas shifted into another gear. That was the start of four birdies in five holes - the exception was a birdie putt he missed from just inside 10 feet - and he stretched his lead to as many as nine shots.
Waialae was vulnerable all week with not much wind, fast fairways and greens that were softer than usual. Thomas produced the eighth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history Thursday. Kevin Kisner had a shot at 59 on Saturday until missing a 9-foot eagle putt on his final hole. And on Sunday, Chez Reavie made a hole-in-one with a 6-iron on the 17th hole that gave him a shot at a sub-60 round. Only a bogey on the sixth hole (he started on No. 10) stopping him, and he had to settle for a 61. That matched the third-best score of the week.
Even in easier conditions, no one played like Thomas.
Round 3 - Justin Thomas stretches lead to 7 shotsJanuary 15, 2017
Justin Thomas has turned the first full-field event of the year into a blowout.
With three birdies over the last five holes Saturday in the Sony Open - the last for another entry into the PGA Tour record book - Thomas played bogey-free and shot a 5-under 65 to stretch his lead to seven shots going into the final round at vulnerable Waialae Country Club.
No one has ever lost on the PGA Tour when leading by seven shots after 54 holes, which was brought to his attention.
''I'm more excited about the seven-shot lead than what you just said,'' Thomas replied.
Staked to a five-shot lead, Thomas wanted to avoid giving anything back on another peaceful afternoon, and he only had one close call. He wound up with a seven-shot lead, the largest at the Sony Open since Jack Nicklaus led by six in 1974.
That's not the record Thomas was thinking about when he reached the par-5 18th.
Each of the previous two rounds, he made eagle on his closing hole to get into the record book - a 59 on Thursday, and the PGA Tour's 36-hole scoring record Friday. No such luck Saturday after he clipped a palm frond with his second shot into the par-5 18th and came up well short in the fairway. Thomas pitched to just inside 15 feet below the cup and poured it in , just like he's been doing all week.
That put him at 22-under 188, tying the 54-hole record that Steve Stricker set in 2010 at the John Deere Classic with caddie Jimmy Johnson on his bag. Johnson now caddies for Thomas, though this performance surely stands out because no one is close to him.
Zach Johnson kept pace with a 65 and is leading the B-flight at 15-under 201.
''I've got to play the golf course,'' Johnson said. ''That's my only competitor tomorrow.''
Thomas repeated at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia last fall, and it picked up some serious steam last week at Kapalua when he overcame a late blunder with birdies on his last two holes for a three-shot victory in the SBS Tournament of Champions.
He doesn't feel much different this week. He's not sure he's playing all that much differently, hard to measure given the extreme contrast in courses.
It was his 11th consecutive round in the 60s.
Along with tying Stricker's record, Thomas set the 54-hole scoring record at the Sony Open by five shots. Next on the horizon is a shot at the 72-hole scoring record that Tommy Armour III set in 2003 with a 254 at the Texas Open.
Thomas would need a 65 to break that mark.
Right now, his only thought is more of what he called the ''smart aggressive'' play that enabled him to play bogey-free and extend his lead. He is thinking birdie while trying to avoid a miss that could lead to bogey.
And all he wants is another lei around his neck and another trophy from paradise. Ernie Els in 2003 is the only other player to sweep Hawaii.
The course remained so vulnerable that Kevin Kisner nearly produced the second 59 of the week. Kisner made a 25-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole to reach 9 under for his round. Needing an eagle to shoot 59, he drilled his tee shot on the fast fairways of Waialae, hit 8-iron to 9 feet and thought he had made it. The putt stayed to the right and burned the edge of the cup, and Kisner had to settle for a 60.
It was the lowest round of his career - but only the second-lowest round this week.
''Can't be that upset,'' Kisner said.
He went from making the cut on the number to a tie for sixth, though hardly in contention. When someone started to suggest that his 60 got him back into the mix, Kisner laughed and said, ''Justin might need to get food poisoning.''
Even that might not be enough.
Only three players have lost a six-shot lead going into the final round, the most famous being Greg Norman at the Masters in 1996.
Thomas had only a few stressful moments, such as the par-3 seventh when his tee shot bounded down a steep still on the right into a fluffy lie. He hit a flop shot to about 12 feet and hit the putt so pure he started walking even before it dropped.
Thomas led by at least four shots the entire round. He made his first birdie with a two-putt on the par-5 ninth, drove into a greenside bunker on the par-4 10th and got another birdie and he was on his way.
Round 2 - Justin Thomas sets PGA Tour recordJanuary 14, 2017
Justin Thomas finished with another eagle and put himself in the PGA Tour record book again Friday in the Sony Open.
One day after his 59 made him only the seventh player in PGA Tour history break 60, Thomas made an 8-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole at Waialae for a 6-under 64 to set the 36-hole scoring record on the PGA Tour.
Thomas was at 17-under 123 and had a five-shot lead over Gary Woodland.
The previous mark was 124, last matched at the 2015 BMW Championship by Jason Day at Conway Farm.
''It's cool,'' Thomas said. ''Just like yesterday, anytime you can get your name in the record book, it's awesome. I had no idea until I finished.''
Thomas started slowly, not picking up his first birdie until the fifth hole. Irritation from a three-putt bogey on the eighth hole got him going, and Thomas ran off four straight birdies around the turn.
From there, no one got closer than four shots on another ideal day for scoring off the shore just up the road from Waikiki Beach. Woodland made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for his second straight 64.
Woodland and Thomas as part of the final group could be a real power show - Woodland is regarded as one of the premier power players in golf, though he has been far more reserved off the tee, despite being tempted to hit driver.
''I did that my first couple times here and that didn't work out for me,'' he said. ''I'm very comfortable with where my game is. Driver feels great, I just don't get many opportunities out there. I'm not complaining about being in the fairway, either.''
Thomas wasn't bashful. He smashed a 355-yard drive down the 12th fairway that set up a flip wedge to 12 feet for his fourth straight birdie. He also took an unusual line on the 14th, hammering a high drive over the trees and bunker down the left side and back into the fairway, leaving him 70 yards to the green on the 430-yard hole. He pitched that up to just under 5 feet and missed the putt, one of the few he failed to convert.
Zach Johnson had a 61 and Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose shot 64. They were in the group seven shots behind along with Hudson Swafford, who opened with a 62 but could only manage a 68.
Jordan Spieth felt empty after rounds of 65-67, partially because he was nine shots behind and primarily because he had as many chances as Thomas over the last two days. Only one of them has been converting putt after putt.
''Just has a really cold putter this week,'' Spieth said. ''I think it added to the frustration on the green, because the game is looking so easy to him. I felt like I was hitting the ball in the same location, I'm just being outdone on the green. That's something a little abnormal to me.''
That made Thomas, his best friend in golf for the last 10 years, chuckle.
''Now he knows how a lot of people feel,'' Thomas said.
Thomas never made it to the North Shore on Thursday after his 59, though he was happy to have missed out on Spieth and Smylie Kaufman's ocean adventure that included a capsized kayak. He approached the next day like any other, trying to hit good shots, get birdie chances and expand his lead.
He ticked every box, even picking up a record he knew nothing about.
Thomas rolled in a 12-foot birdie from the collar left of the 15th green, only to give the shot back with a tee shot he pulled into the bunker. From the left rough, with the sun in his face, he belted it out and onto the green for another closing eagle.
Coming off a three-shot victory last week at Kapalua, he is in prime position to join Ernie Els in 2003 as the only players to sweep Hawaii.
''He's not stopping, as we can see,'' Spieth said. ''Someone has to go out and chase him.''
Rose was one shot out of the lead when he finished - Thomas had yet to tee off - and was hopeful of staying in range. Rose knows from experience that starting strong and holding it together for four rounds isn't easy. He shot 60 in the first round at Disney in 2006, stretched his lead early in the second round and by the end of the week was five shots behind the winner.
''You definitely need the mindset when you're that far ahead to keep the accelerator down,'' Rose said. ''But it's hard to keep that sort of momentum going, for sure.''
Round 1 - Justin Thomas shoots a 59January 13, 2017
Staring over the top of a bunker on his final hole, the prudent play for Justin Thomas might have been to make sure he got out of the sand and avoided a big number.
But then, Thomas didn't care about a big number.
It was about golf's magic number.
''This isn't a time for me to lay it up,'' Thomas said Thursday at the Sony Open.
He hit a 5-iron so clean and so high that it carried 207 yards into a light Pacific breeze to 15 feet on the par-5 ninth hole at Waialae Country Club. Thomas poured in the eagle putt for an 11-under 59, becoming the seventh player to post a sub-60 round in PGA Tour history.
For a brief moment, he reacted as if it were little more than the perfect finish to a great opening round. He stretched out his putter that was still in his left hand, smiled and punched the air with his right fist. Only when he looked over at Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger, the two witnesses to a 59 that Thomas made look easy, did the sense of history start to hit him.
Berger thrust his arm in the air. Spieth, his best friend in golf since they were 13, crouched as the ball neared the cup and delivered a left-handed fist pump as both raced over to congratulate him.
''I think I got more excited from seeing them get excited than I did my putt going in,'' Thomas said. ''I thought about it going up to the green. I'm like, 'If I make it, what am I going to do?' It's not like winning a tournament. You have three days left to try to play well. So I didn't really know how to react. I never had a putt on the last hole on a Thursday mean that much.''
He was five shots better than anyone in the morning, but his lead was only three shots by the end of the day. Hudson Swafford shot a 62 in the afternoon. Swafford made a birdie on his 12th hole, when his caddie told him, ''We've got to make seven birdies on the last six holes to catch Justin.''
The average score was 68.26.
It was different from the feeling Thomas had four days ago when he won the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. That was his third victory on the PGA Tour, and the 23-year-old Thomas is sure to win more. But this might have been even more memorable.
''I don't have many chances to shoot 59,'' he said.
Jim Furyk was the last player with a sub-60 round when he closed with a record 58 at the Travelers Championship last summer. Furyk also had a 59 in 2013 at the BMW Championship, joining the exclusive group that includes Al Geiberger (1977 Memphis Classic), Chip Beck (1991 Las Vegas Invitational), David Duval (1999 Bob Hope Classic), Paul Goydos (2010 John Deere Classic) and Stuart Appleby (2010 Greenbrier Classic).
This was special because he made it look so easy.
He began by pitching in for eagle from 35 yards. Thomas never hit more than a 7-iron into the par 4s at Waialae on a perfect day for scoring - very little breeze, fast fairways and soft greens. That 7-iron was chipped under the trees and into a bunker on No. 8 when he was trying to save par.
His only bogey came on his second hole, the par-3 11th, when his tee shot went into a bunker and he missed an 18-foot par putt.
Duval was the only other player to shoot 59 with an eagle on the last hole. Furyk at Conway Farms is the only other player to shoot 59 with a bogey.
Spieth was more nervous than Thomas and far more demonstrative. Thomas had a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 7 that looked good even when it was inches from the cup until burning the edge. Spieth clutched the back of his neck and was still asking how the putt didn't fall when he walked onto the next tee. He was talking to himself, of course. He gave Thomas his space.
''It's like sitting on the bench with a teammate throwing a perfect game,'' Spieth said. ''It was awesome. What an awesome last five rounds he's had.''
Thomas first thought about a 59 when he found an extra long tee at the par-5 18th and figured that was an omen for him to tee it high and hammer a high draw, which left him only an 8-iron into the green. He narrowly missed his eagle putt and settled for a 29. The way he was playing, he expected to go lower, and he did.
''When I was on 18, I thought about 59. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing, but I just knew that I was driving it well,'' he said. ''And if you drive it well out there, you can make a lot of birdies.''
He followed with three birdies in four holes, and two years at Alabama was enough for him to start doing the math.
''He had full control of his golf swing,'' Spieth said.
Spieth and Berger were along for the ride. They all graduated high school in 2011 and grew up in junior golf. They were together a few weekends ago at a resort in Maui ahead of the Tournament of Champions. And they put on quite a show, with Spieth and Berger each shooting 65. On only three holes - No. 15, 5 and 8 - did someone in the group not make birdie or better. Their best-ball score was 17 under.
Thomas started to think a 59 wasn't in the works when he was fooled on a 10-foot birdie chance on No. 5 and the putt on No. 7 somehow stayed out. He kept his hopes alive with a 10-foot par save on No. 8, knowing he could get home in two on the par-5 ninth hole. And then he hit into a bunker.
''I saw some sand flying and I was ready to punch something,'' Thomas said. ''I was pretty upset about that, because I felt like all chances right there gone.''
But then he saw Berger hit out of the bunker with a 4-iron, and Thomas took 5-iron and ''absolutely flushed it.''
One putt later, he posted the eighth sub-60 score in history, and became the youngest to shoot 59. Thomas planned to go to the North Shore in the afternoon. Even watching from the beach, he can appreciate the feeling of catching a big wave. He's on one right now.
|T8||USA||Charles Howell III||-16||-||65||66||68||65||264|
|T20||USA||Billy Hurley III||-12||-||64||68||68||68||268|
|T64||-||J. T. Poston||-4||-||68||67||71||70||276|
|CUT||USA||Harold Varner III||-2||-||70||68||-||-||138|
|CUT||-||J. J. Henry||-2||-||69||69||-||-||138|
|CUT||-||J. J. Spaun||1||-||70||71||-||-||141|
|CUT||RSA||Tyrone van Aswegen||1||-||70||71||-||-||141|
|CUT||-||K. J. Choi||2||-||70||72||-||-||142|