Thomas fends off Matsuyama for 3rd Tour title

Justin Thomas' four-under-par effort gave him a total of 22-under 270 and a three-shot win over Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama.
Justin Thomas' four-under-par effort gave him a total of 22-under 270 and a three-shot win over Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama.PHOTO: AFP

KAPALUA (HAWAII) • Justin Thomas held off red-hot Hideki Matsuyama to win his third US PGA Tour title on Sunday with a final-round 69 at the Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii.

The American's four-under-par effort gave him a total of 22-under 270 and a three-shot win over the Japanese golfer - who arrived in Hawaii having won four of his last five tournaments.

Thomas was also the only player to beat Matsuyama in that span, at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in October.

But the 23-year-old had to survive some tense moments on the back nine to beat the world No. 6, who started the day two behind Thomas and carded a 70 for 273.

"It's a great feeling," said Thomas, whose victory in the elite 32-man event for last season's title winners was his first title on US soil after his back-to-back CIMB Classic wins. It also moves him up to world No. 12.

"I obviously stumbled a bit more than I would have liked on some of those holes, but I think it really shows where my game's at right now. I stuck it out to still get it done."

Former world No. 1 and defending champion Jordan Spieth matched the best round of the tournament with a final-round 65, heading a trio tied for third on 276 alongside Pat Perez, who carded a 67, and Ryan Moore, who posted a 71.

It was a further stroke back to US Open champion Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Brendan Steele.

Thomas was rolling with three birdies on the front nine. After a bogey at 10, and birdies at 11 and 13, he had a seemingly comfortable five-stroke lead over Matsuyama.

But the Japanese narrowed the gap with a remarkable eagle at the par-four 14th hole, where his flop shot from 60 feet off the green found the hole.

Things got even more tense at the 15th, where Thomas hit out of the fairway into dense vegetation in a hazard en route to a double-bogey seven that sliced his lead to one stroke, as Matsuyama made par on the par-five from almost the same spot in the fairway.

Matsuyama had a 10-foot birdie putt to move into a tie for the lead at No. 16, but left it inches short. And at the 17th, he three-putted for bogey as Thomas rolled in a three-footer for birdie to rebuild his lead, before they both birdied Kapalua's par-five 18th.

World No. 1 Jason Day, back in action last week after three months off treating a troublesome back, had his ups and downs but finished on a high note with an eagle to cap his 70. He finished tied for 13th on 279.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2017, with the headline 'Thomas fends off Matsuyama for 3rd Tour title'. Print Edition | Subscribe