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English completes wire-to-wire victory

Niemann fires final-round 64, falls short in playoff as English earns first PGA Tour win since 2013

Harris English holds up the Sentry Tournament of Champions trophy after defeating Joaquin Niemann on the first hole of a playoff Sunday to win at the Kapalua Plantation Course. English and Niemann both finished at 25-under 267. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

KAPALUA — Harris English stuck to his game plan all week at the Kapalua Plantation Course and, after one extra hole Sunday, it turned into his first PGA Tour win in more than seven years.

English beat Joaquin Niemann on the first hole of a playoff in the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, giving him his third career win but first since 2013. English birdied the 18th in the playoff while Niemann parred the hole — both finished 72 holes at 25-under-par 267.

Niemann fired a 9-under 64 in the final round while English shot 4-under 69, his worst score of an impressive week.

“Yeah, pretty incredible. I mean, obviously put myself in pretty good position all week and I just know you don’t get that many chances like that to convert and you got to do it,” English said. “It’s really hard to win out here on tour.

“I knew coming in today, yeah, the wind was up a little bit, but I definitely could see somebody shooting 7, 8, 9 under today and Joaquin did that and chased us down and he played an incredible round of golf. I mean, I feel like the wind was up pretty good and it was tricky out there.”

Harris English and Joaquin Niemann walk down the 18th fairway while playing their playoff hole Sunday.

English, a 31-year-old from Georgia who entered the week ranked 29th in the world, was one of 16 players in the 42-man field to get here without a win in 2020 because of eligibility rules loosened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, he knows he will be back next year in the tournament that is usually reserved for tour winners from the previous calendar year.

“It feels amazing. All the hard work that has gone into this, all the highs and lows of golf that it brings over a career and I feel like I’ve gotten out of my valley and getting back to the tournaments and some of the quality of golf that I know I can play,” said English, who last won at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba on Nov. 17, 2013. “And it feels great to have some validation out there on the golf course.”

Defending champion Justin Thomas finished one stroke back in third place after a 66, and Ryan Palmer (71) was fourth, two shots out of the playoff.

English had a share of the lead after one round, led by two shots at the midway point, shared the lead again after three rounds and then watched Niemann blast past him on Sunday under a baking-hot West Maui sun.

English pumps his fist after his winning putt as caddie Eric Larson looks on.

Niemann fired a red-hot 30 on the front nine and led by two strokes for much of the stretch run after he started the day in a tie for seventh, five shots behind English and Palmer. Niemann finished his round about an hour before English did.

Niemann missed a 6-foot birdie on 18 in regulation with a chance to take a two-stroke lead on Harris, who moments later bogeyed the 16th to fall a stroke back. In the playoff, his lie in the bunker was not easy to handle.

“Yeah, I had a perfect line the second shot, I just mis-hit it a little bit,” Niemann said. “I got a little lucky that it carried the hazard and then it was not an easy lie and then, I mean, it is what it is, but, yeah, pretty happy.”

English caught Niemann at 25 under with a birdie on the 525-yard, par-5 15th, then fell back when he missed an 8-foot par putt on the par-4 16th.

After par on the tough 17th, English had to wait on the tee at 18. He smacked his drive 370 yards to the perfect spot in the left of the fairway, and then his 271-yard second shot rolled 10 feet past the hole, leaving a makable eagle putt for the win with Niemann in the clubhouse one stroke ahead.

English shakes hands with Niemann after the playoff.

English missed the eagle putt, but tapped in for birdie and the tie. He calmly walked back to the 18th tee 677 yards away for the playoff and sent his second shot just in front of the green, 84 feet away. His eagle putt rolled just a few feet past the hole, while Niemann was in the greenside bunker, 31 feet away.

After Niemann blasted out 14 feet short of the pin and missed his birdie putt, English calmly made a knee-knocking 6-footer to win.

After a blistering start during which he played 7 under through 11 holes, Niemann managed just two birdies the rest of the way and settled for par on both remaining par-5s.

“I mean, if you asked me at the beginning of the round I’m going to be in a playoff, I would probably take it, but, yeah, the way I was playing the whole week and the way I played today, and then I just look back and I see those two par-5s I made par (on the back nine),” Niemann said. “But, yeah, I mean it is what it is.”

Thomas recorded his fourth top-3 finish in six trips here — he won the title in 2020 and 2017.

Dustin Johnson chips to the ninth green.

“I was really proud of how I played today. I think being four back, especially at a place like this and where guys were going low, I mean, it looked like the tournament was destined for a playoff or a lot of guys were there,” Thomas said. “But I just, I really, really stayed in the moment well, took it one shot at a time, just trying to make a lot of birdies. It got windy, it got harder, putted beautifully, drove it well, hit good irons, just missed two really, really timely putts there on 16 and 17.”

Thomas admitted he was a bit distracted after he uttered a gay slur that was caught on television microphones Saturday. He did not know that it had been heard on TV until he finished Saturday’s round, and he issued a second apology on The Golf Channel on Sunday.

“Obviously had a lot of other things on my mind last night. I mean, I apologized yesterday. I don’t need to explain myself. I clearly screwed up. I made a terrible, terrible judgment call. But I thought a lot last night that, we grow a lot as people over time,” Thomas said. “I wish that I could learn to grow a different way than the way that I chose to do it, but unfortunately it’s in the past and there’s nothing I can do about it now. And again, it definitely was a distraction out there today. But now I just get to take time going forward and try to become better because of it.”

Palmer rallied to take fourth place with four birdies in his last five holes after starting the day tied for the lead with English.

“Disappointed, obviously,” Palmer said. “The putter was just not there. It was very guidey. The last five holes, though, I kind of found it, got more aggressive with the stroke and I could see the ball rolling again.

Collin Morikawa walks onto the 14th green.

“So I hung in there. I was patient, just didn’t get down on myself and just tried to finish off a good week. You know, I never complain about finishing fourth in a PGA Tour event, that’s for sure.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

PGA Sentry Tournament of Champions

Sunday’s Final Round

At Kapalua Plantation Course

x-won on first playoff hole

x-Harris English (500), $1,340,000 65-67-66-69–267 -25

Joaquin Niemann (300), $782,000 69-67-67-64–267 -25

Justin Thomas (190), $490,000 65-69-68-66–268 -24

Ryan Palmer (135), $378,000 67-67-64-71–269 -23

Sungjae Im (105), $280,500 67-68-67-69–271 -21

Xander Schauffele (105), $280,500 69-66-70-66–271 -21

Bryson DeChambeau (85), $199,333 69-67-70-66–272 -20

Collin Morikawa (85), $199,333 69-65-65-73–272 -20

Jon Rahm (85), $199,333 70-66-69-67–272 -20

Daniel Berger (75), $172,000 69-65-67-72–273 -19

Sergio Garcia (68), $155,500 67-71-67-69–274 -18

Dustin Johnson (68), $155,500 71-65-69-69–274 -18

Patrick Cantlay (56), $125,250 68-68-67-72–275 -17

Lanto Griffin (56), $125,250 71-68-69-67–275 -17

Scottie Scheffler (56), $125,250 70-66-70-69–275 -17

Brendon Todd (56), $125,250 68-67-70-70–275 -17

Abraham Ancer (48), $92,000 70-71-69-66–276 -16

Martin Laird (48), $92,000 69-69-68-70–276 -16

Sebastián Muñoz (48), $92,000 75-66-67-68–276 -16

Webb Simpson (48), $92,000 70-67-69-70–276 -16

Patrick Reed (41), $75,000 67-68-72-70–277 -15

Adam Scott (41), $75,000 68-71-68-70–277 -15

Michael Thompson (41), $75,000 73-68-67-69–277 -15

Billy Horschel (34), $63,200 71-66-66-75–278 -14

Kevin Kisner (34), $63,200 70-71-69-68–278 -14

Marc Leishman (34), $63,200 69-69-71-69–278 -14

Cameron Smith (34), $63,200 70-70-66-72–278 -14

Richy Werenski (34), $63,200 69-69-70-70–278 -14

Brian Gay (29), $55,000 70-67-71-71–279 -13

Nick Taylor (29), $55,000 67-71-69-72–279 -13

Cameron Champ (24), $49,000 71-68-70-72–281 -11

Stewart Cink (24), $49,000 71-69-67-74–281 -11

Tony Finau (24), $49,000 74-68-68-71–281 -11

Viktor Hovland (24), $49,000 69-68-68-76–281 -11

Jason Kokrak (21), $43,000 71-66-70-76–283 -9

Hudson Swafford (21), $43,000 73-70-72-68–283 -9

Carlos Ortiz (19), $41,000 69-67-75-74–285 -7

Andrew Landry (17), $39,000 70-71-76-70–287 -5

Kevin Na (17), $39,000 71-68-69-79–287 -5

Robert Streb (17), $39,000 67-72-72-76–287 -5

Mackenzie Hughes (15), $36,500 73-71-72-72–288 -4

Hideki Matsuyama (15), $36,500 73-75-72-68–288 -4

*****

TOC winners at Kapalua

Plantation Course

2021–Harris English-x

2020–Justin Thomas-x

2019–Xander Schauffele

2018–Dustin Johnson

2017–Justin Thomas

2016–Jordan Spieth

2015–Patrick Reed-x

2014–Zach Johnson

2013–Dustin Johnson

2012–Steve Stricker

2011–Jonathan Byrd-x

2010–Geoff Ogilvy

2009–Geoff Ogilvy

2008–Daniel Chopra-x

2007–Vijay Singh

2006–Stuart Appleby-x

2005–Stuart Appleby

2004–Stuart Appleby

2003–Ernie Els

2002–Sergio Garcia-x

2001–Jim Furyk

2000–Tiger Woods-x

1999–David Duval

x-won in playoff

Justin Thomas smiles after a birdie on No. 9.

Niemann watches his chip to the 18th green on the playoff hole come up short.

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