Kapalua stages more drama

Wild two-hole swing made for close call in Thomas’ victory

Justin Thomas hits off the Kapalua Plantation Course’s 16th tee Sunday on the way to winning the SBS Tournament of Champions. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Justin Thomas hits off the Kapalua Plantation Course’s 16th tee Sunday on the way to winning the SBS Tournament of Champions. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAPALUA — The Kapalua Plantation Course keeps finding new ways to provide excitement.

This time, the drama down the stretch of the SBS Tournament of Champions came not from a finish full of fireworks, but from a two-hole span that included shots remarkable for both quality and costliness — and then a decisive mistake by the player trying to mount a comeback bid.

In the end, it was Justin Thomas who retained the lead he had at the start of the final round, and lifted the Norfolk Pine trophy.

“It’s a great feeling,” Thomas said Sunday after shooting 4-under-par 69 to finish at 22-under 270, defeating Hideki Matsuyama by three strokes.

On a course made tougher by rains leading up to the event and changing wind conditions during competition, Thomas had the highest final-round score for a Maui winner since Vijay Singh carded a 70 in 2007, one way in which this year’s tournament was a departure from more recent events.

Justin Thomas watches his penultimate shot of the tournament, a putt on the 18th green — he birdied the hole and won by three strokes. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Justin Thomas watches his penultimate shot of the tournament, a putt on the 18th green — he birdied the hole and won by three strokes. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

In part because of the conditions, no scoring records were in jeopardy, as was the case last season when Jordan Spieth won at 30 under, one shot shy of the PGA Tour mark for a four-round event.

A comeback win seemed possible, but it would have been about Matsuyama overcoming bogeys on two of his first four holes Sunday — unlike what Patrick Reed did in 2015, closing with a 67 and then defeating Jimmy Walker on the first extra hole, or the way Zach Johnson charged from behind with a bogey-free 66 in 2014.

Sunday had a different kind of theatrics.

Thomas led Matsuyama by five shots after a birdie on the 13th hole, but Matsuyama eagled the 14th and Thomas had a double bogey on No. 15. Two holes later, however, Matsuyama’s three-putt bogey ended any doubt — he finished with a 70.

Matsuyama, who had won his previous three starts, was left looking for ways to improve.

Hideki Matsuyama, shown watching his chip shot for eagle on the Kapalua Plantation Course’s 14th hole Sunday, leads the FedEx Cup standings and is ranked sixth in the world. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Hideki Matsuyama, shown watching his chip shot for eagle on the Kapalua Plantation Course’s 14th hole Sunday, leads the FedEx Cup standings and is ranked sixth in the world. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“Along with my full swing, I’ll concentrate on the short game,” he said.

One of Thomas’ takeaways, meanwhile, is that he can find a way to hang on.

“I had some woes there the second part of the nine, but I stuck it out to still get it done,” he said.

* Brad Sherman is at sports@mauinews.com.

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Pro Golf

WORLD RANKINGS

1. Jason Day                10.57

2. Rory McIlroy                9.64

3. Dustin Johnson            9.36

4. Henrik Stenson            8.56

5. Jordan Spieth            8.00

6. Hideki Matsuyama        7.98

7. Adam Scott                6.44

8. Patrick Reed                5.49

9. Alex Noren                5.30

10. Bubba Watson            5.02

11. Danny Willett            5.00

12. Justin Thomas            4.88

13. Rickie Fowler            4.86

14. Sergio Garcia            4.65

15. Paul Casey                4.62

16. Justin Rose                4.33

17. Brooks Koepka            4.26

18. Branden Grace            4.24

19. Russell Knox            4.17

20. Jimmy Walker            4.03

21. Matt Kuchar            4.03

22. Phil Mickelson            4.02

23. Tyrrell Hatton            3.63

24. Charl Schwartzel        3.62

25. Emiliano Grillo            3.56

26. Louis Oosthuizen        3.52

27. Brandt Snedeker        3.49

28. Rafael Cabrera Bello    3.45

29. Matthew Fitzpatrick    3.34

30. J.B. Holmes                3.31

FEDEX CUP LEADERS

Points    Winnings

1. Hideki Matsuyama        1,150    $3,088,000

2. Justin Thomas            1,114    $2,722,167

3. Pat Perez                    751    $1,861,685

4. Brendan Steele            648    $1,383,038

5. Mackenzie Hughes        616    $1,315,738

6. Rod Pampling            556    $1,299,847

7. Cody Gribble                481    $1,152,195

8. Russell Knox                382    $894,334

9. Scott Piercy                351    $830,664

10. Luke List                329    $765,190

11. Daniel Berger            320    $925,576

12. Brooks Koepka            316    $774,800

13. Gary Woodland        316    $826,751

14. Patton Kizzire            300    $648,000

15. Chris Kirk                281    $707,957

16. Ryan Moore            279    $633,507

17. Keegan Bradley        270    $616,167

18. Lucas Glover            266    $627,933

19. Henrik Stenson        258    $787,000

20. Anirban Lahiri            241    $551,300

21. Paul Casey                240    $494,800

22. Derek Fathauer        232    $533,086

23. Camilo Villegas        230    $473,890

24. Bill Haas                    224    $546,750

25. Emiliano Grillo            219    $465,334

26. Francesco Molinari    211    $508,133

27. Charles Howell III        199    $438,757

28. Billy Horschel            196    $419,100

29. Chez Reavie            193    $422,534

30. Blayne Barber            191    $409,514

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