KAPALUA, Hawaii — Justin Thomas had to sweat it out more than he wanted to enjoy that view down the 18th hole at Kapalua on Sunday.
Thomas had a five-shot lead with five holes to play when he was caught in a battle with Hideki Matsuyama down the stretch in the SBS Tournament of Champions. Thomas responded with a defining shot in his young career, an 8-iron approach he ripped from 214 yards to 3 feet on the 17th.
Matsuyama, one shot behind and needing birdie to stay in the game, ran his 30-foot putt about 8 feet by the hole and three-putted for bogey. Thomas knocked in his short putt for a three-shot lead, and he went on to another birdie for a 4-under 69 and a three-shot victory.
Thomas won for the second time this season, and third time in his career. His other two PGA Tour titles were at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.
Matsuyama holed a tough flop shot on the 14th for eagle, and then Thomas hooked a 4-iron into the hazard on the par-5 15th and made double bogey. Matsuyama had a chance to tie him until narrowly missing a 10-foot birdie on the 16th. The 24-year-old from Japan closed with a 70.
Thomas is the only player to beat Matsuyama over the last three months. In his last six tournaments worldwide, Matsuyama had four victories and a pair of runner-up finishes – both to Thomas, in Kuala Lumpur and Kapalua.
Thomas, who finished at 22-under 270, is the first multiple winner on the PGA Tour in a season that began last October. He moves to No. 12 in the world, a big victory that squarely moves him into the conversation of a growing list of young stars in golf.
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