Justin Thomas won the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua at 22-under, beating Hideki Matsuyama by three shots. And JT doesn’t care that the trophy pictures are the most flattering in the world because he just won the first PGA Tour event of 2017, so there. I did chuckle when I came across his Instagram post with the above picture and the caption, “Too excited for the trophy to worry about my double chin #shaka.”
Since I am now just openly refusing to write game stories/summaries for the sake of doing so — with exceptions, like I walked the round in person or it’s Tiger or it’s something really freaking interesting and cool or it’s an epic final round at a major, etc. — I will quickly tell you all you need to know, but I’m sure you already know if you’re reading this.
At around 5pm this evening, JT was leaving the Ritz Carlton and heading to the airport without a drink in his hand. It was a travesty, really. I kid. And don’t worry — he plans on filling up his new super large wooden bowl up to the top with some type of liquid I presume and drinking it up with his family and friends. PAR-TAY!
OK, but seriously speaking, it looked like Thomas was going to run away with the tourney from the get-go. After all, though Hideki Matsuyama, the closest competitor and only real threat, is probably the hottest player in the planet at the moment with four wins in his last six starts worldwide, the only person he can’t beat appears to be Thomas. The two times he didn’t win he finished second…to the same person…Justin Thomas. Which leads us to the obvious conclusion: JT is Hideki’s kryptonite!
I was yawning and more transfixed with my 2,000 rant/ode to Rory McIlroy than golf in January. Oh, please, I’m totally kidding! I’m just so blessed. So, I head down to the flash area to grab some quotes from Daniel Berger as a favor to a colleague and at this point, I think JT has a five-shot lead through 13 holes, and it’s definitely game o-vah! I hang around and chat with various people in the flash area, grill Berger and then turn the corner to see the GC crew watching a tiny TV and crack a joke about the tourney being done already. But in that time, Hideki had chipped in and JT had managed to double-bogey 15.
Huh? He doubled 15? I was very confused. That’s the par-5. Yep. Sniped it in the hazard. Eh, okay, fair enough. But, wait, what? I need the visual. I don’t get it. I guess at least JT made it a bit interesting near the end and gave it some suspense.
Red alert, though! Suddenly, JT’s lead was only one! Could he bring it home? Oh, hell yeah. Because he’s matured.
“Probably not,” said Thomas was asked if he would’ve handled the situation the same two years ago at 21. “I probably would still be out there crying or whining about it.
“That’s the thing, obviously it would have been different if I was one — if I had a one-shot lead and I did that to go 1-down. That changes things a lot. But I still would like to hope that I would have been that calm and that patient, just because I think what helped — y’all probably won’t believe me, but I didn’t really feel like it was from nerves. I felt very comfortable.
“The only time I felt something the last couple holes, it was like Malaysia. 17 and 18 is the only time you can feel something on the putts. At least it was for me.
“I felt like I was going to hit a good shot. Obviously wasn’t a good swing; I did something. I still knew that I could get that up-and-down for par. Although I end up making double, I still had a one shot thread with three to go. And then I have a wedge can, and 17 is I guess is a birdie opportunity if I can hit a good drive, and 18 I can get to in two. I was like, I thought I would just play these last three holes 1-under or 2-under, take our chances, see what happens.”
I appreciate the acknowledgement that we would call BS to the nerves part, because that actually does make it more legit and he sounded genuine about it.
Plus, that shot on 17! Yes, the approach shot from 193 yards — on what I think is the most difficult hole on the course — to three feet. Yeah, boom! That was game, set, match. Because Hideki would’ve needed JT to hit a crappy, choke-y shot that far along with the last hole being a super easy par-5 18th, especially with the tees pushed forward, making it almost impossible not to reach in two.
It was like a mic drop moment after JT rolled in the birdie putt. But since he still technically had one hole left, he had to settle with ripping the velcro to take his glove off with gusto…fierce.
“The shot on 17 was definitely the best shot I hit this week,” said Thomas. “It was really, really steep downslope. I probably would have hit driver if I wouldn’t have gone through the fairway yesterday. But it just wasn’t worth nuking one and getting a big bounce, and going in the hazard is the last thing you want. It wasn’t realistic. It probably wouldn’t have happened. I did hit a great 3-wood and I had 8-iron in.
“There’s just a tree that’s a little slanted, and it’s a perfect aiming point every day for my second shot. I just kind of aimed it there and made sure I held on to the club, if anything, to make sure my miss was right. And I just tried to make sure I got tilted with the hook and I didn’t chunk it, and really, I just flushed it, and as soon as it came off, I knew it was going to be perfect.”
One last thing that I thought was cool: Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker, among others, hung back and watched JT finish on the 18th green so they could congratulate them. This doesn’t seem like such a novel thing, I know. Because it isn’t as much as it used to be. You see, golf is a super selfish sport. I mean, it is by nature since it’s an individual sport. Add sport/competition and realize how selfish people are in general. It’s kind of hard to explain because it’s partly a culture thing, I think, but this is becoming a more common sight — in that, it doesn’t just happen every now and again anymore.
In 2011 my first full year on the golf beat, it was like a once in a year thing. Maybe. It was really weird when I first saw it happen because it rarely happened even between old friends, which is even stranger, but not at that time. In other words, I love that this post-Tiger younger generation is friendlier with each other and even the top players in the world can cheer for the other and be real people and friends. It makes my heart warm. Yay. These are all good things.
Parting shot: So, I leave Maui tomorrow for NYC (which is an absolute travesty because I haven’t been in a bathing suit or to the pool, but I’m peeling from Bali, so PLAY THAT TINY VIOLIN!), and a week from today, I leave for Abu Dhabi. It’s finally hitting me — shit, that’s a lot of flying and time changes and jet lag, etc.! (that’s a joke) — and I’m a little apprehensive only because I’m going alone (though it’s to cover a tournament, so it’s not like I’m going alone, alone), and I’ve never been to that part of the world, so I am not sure what to expect. I think it’d be weird if I wasn’t a little nervous because it’s expected. Some people freak out about crossing state lines, so I think this is normal. But that’s the entire reason I’m going: Because I have never been and want to see what it’s like and it’s somewhere new and different and when the heck else am I going to go to Abu Dhabi?!? If I’ve learned anything from my (personal) Facebook timeline, do and try everything, especially travel, while you’re single and before you start having babies. Because you can. And *I* can. So, you know, YOLO.
Aloha and mahalo. Also: I pimped a shot tracer app (for free) because I thought it was super cool via Instagram. Check it out.
Didn’t really want to post a video of my swing or even look at it because obviously it’s gotten worse every year since I stopped playing but the past two years have gotten REALLY bad. I guess not practicing for over 10 years starts catching up more quickly as time passes. (I used to say that between the ages of 11-19/21, I ha practiced enough to last me a few lifetimes. Anyhow. This shot tracer app that @beneverill showed me today is so cool, so I felt it would be a disservice not to let you guys know about it! And I’m actually embarrassed I only learned about it today but then again, barely played last year. Another reason 2016 sucked! I just downloaded it from the App Store on my iPhone. It’s $7 and seems like a worthy investment. Ben used the app just on the one swing shown above, so I have no idea how it works and what else it does, but if you wanna check it out, here’s the link: #ShotTracer https://appsto.re/us/BJE-db.i #kapalua #baycourse #maui #pgatour