Jan 16, 2017: Challenged only by the record book, Justin Thomas won the Sony Open on Sunday with the lowest 72-hole score in PGA TOUR history.
Thomas capped off his wonderful week at Waialae that began with a 59 with his second straight victory. He two-putted birdie from 60 feet on the par-5 18th and closed with a 5-under 65 to set the record at 253.
Tommy Armour III shot 254 at the 2003 Texas Open.
“It’s been an unbelievable week. Unforgettable,” Thomas said before going to sign his historic card.
Make that two weeks.
The 23-year-old from Kentucky won the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua last week by three shots, then destroyed the full field at the Sony Open to win by seven shots. Thomas is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 (Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational) to win back-to-back weeks by three shots or more.
“I felt like I was trying to win a tournament for second place,” Jordan Spieth said, summing up the helpless feeling of everyone.
That honor went to Justin Rose, who closed with a 64 to finish alone in second. Spieth shot a 63 to finish alone in third.
The first full-field event of the year on the PGA TOUR was a one-man show.
Thomas began the final round with a seven-shot lead and no one got closer than five shots all day. His only nervous moment was an 8-foot par putt on the sixth hole when he was five shots ahead. He made that, and the rest of the day was a Pacific breeze.
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.
Thomas joined Johnny Miller (1974 and 1975) and Tiger Woods (2003, 2008, 2013) as the only players since 1970 to win three of the their first five starts in a PGA TOUR season. It started last fall with the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.
He moved to No. 8 in the world.
“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.”
No one ever lost a seven-shot lead in the final round of a PGA TOUR event, a fact that never entered the conversation on a balmy afternoon at Waialae.
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 on 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 start 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.
He felt the nerves early, perhaps knowing that he could only lose with such a big lead. But when he made the turn with a six-shot lead, it was a chase for the record, and there was no stopping him. He hit a lob wedge over a bunker to 3 feet for birdie on the 14th, made a 12-foot par save on the 15th and picked up the last birdie he needed on the par-5 18th by easily reaching the middle of the green.