08 January 2019: The PGA TOUR is spoilt for riches and its vast reservoir of talent wasted no time in finding the orbit. Xander Schauffele erased a five-stroke deficit with a rousing 62 on Sunday, as he pinched a one-stroke victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Playing among an elite field of 33 PGA TOUR winners from 2018, Schauffele proved yet again that he has an unparalleled Sunday nerve to clinch a fourth win in just 61 starts.
Here are five key takeaways from a terrific week of competition –
Xander Schauffele is making it a habit of scoring ambush victories. The 25-year-old has birdied the 72nd hole in each of his four victories, scoring either a one-shot victory or forcing a playoff. These are the four events, where he entered Sunday trailing the leaders – 2018 WGC-HSBC Champions (T2, three shots back), 2017 TOUR Championship (T2, two shots) and 2017 A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier (T3, three shots)
Gary Woodland left Kapalua with his second runner-up and fourth top-10 of a still very nascent season. But he will have pondered hard before packing his bags for the Sony Open in Hawaii this week. He is 0 for 7 in strokeplay events, with the 54-hole lead on his bag. The only time he managed to convert was at the 2013 Reno-Tahoe Tournament, which used the Modified Stableford scoring format.
To be fair, golf wasn’t the only thing that might have been dwelling in the mind of Woodland. He received word on Friday during the tournament that his grandmother passed away in Texas. Woodland was eager to win this week to honour his granny, so second place wasn’t a bad tribute after all.
Justin Thomas sounded the bugle with a final round 65 that helped him seal a third place in the Tournament of Champions. The 2017 champion has been among the most consistent golfers on the TOUR, with the Sunday result being an 11th top three finish in his last 51 starts.
Dustin Johnson was the centre of attention for an undesirable penalty for playing the wrong ball earlier in the week. But he put that to rest with a bogey-free 67 to score his seventh consecutive top-10 finish at the event, dating back to 2011.
Rory McIlroy will need to sort out the stuff between his ears, sooner than later. In yet another final group disappointment, Rory slipped into the shade with an insipid 72 on Sunday. After starting the day three strokes back from the leader, he finished the day eight adrift from the winning score.
While Webb Simpson came to life with a final round 65 catapulting himself into T8 after making just 70, 72, 72 in the three previous rounds. Bryson DeChambeau worked his way to 7th place with a consistent effort (69-68-70-71). Marc Leishman was T4 with Johnson and McIlroy while Jon Rahm rounded off the top ten in the company of Patton Kizzire and Simpson.