Justin Thomas got the year off to the perfect start as he landed the first PGA TOUR victory of 2020 when winning the Tournament of Champions for the second time in a play-off at Kapalua Plantation Course in Hawaii.
Thomas had looked on course to win the year-opening event, which features a select field of players to have won events in the previous calendar year, for a second time when leading by two shots with just three holes remaining of the final round.
But two bogeys in the closing trio of holes meant it was extra holes after 2017 champion Thomas finished on 14-under par for the week along with defending champion Xander Schauffele and 2015 Tournament of Champions winner Patrick Reed.
Schauffele was the first of the three to exit the play-off when a par wasn’t good enough to remain in the hunt for back-to-back victories. It was a kick in the teeth for the American, who had three-putted the last regulation hole to miss out on outright success himself.
Reed then three-putted from just off the green on the second extra hole to match Thomas’ par to take the contest into a third play-off hole.
Reed had a first look at birdie but was unable to sink an eight-footer, leaving Thomas to hole from three-foot and edge across the line. It allowed Thomas to breath a huge sigh of relief having threatened to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
“The emotions and how I was winning and then I was barely winning and then I was losing and then I barely got in a playoff… that takes a lot out of you,” said Thomas, who was claiming the 12th PGA Tour victory of his career.
“I probably don’t seem as elated as I might be or as I would hope to be. But it’ll just take a little bit. Once I get back to the hotel hopefully with my family, I’ll be able to enjoy it a little bit and we’ll talk about it. But relief is definitely a word that comes to mind.
“I truly felt like through 15 holes it was one of the best rounds I had played. I was in such control tee to green. I was putting it beautifully, my irons were awesome, and I hit a really good drive on 16, just the wind took it more, and then 18 was just a disaster. I really didn’t hit very many good shots on the hole. But it worked out.”
The win took Thomas into elite company too as he became only the third player after Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus to win 12 or more PGA Tour titles before the age of 27.
He also become the fourth multiple winner of the Tournament of Champions, joining three-time champion Stuart Appleby and two-time winners Geoff Ogivily and Duston Johnson.
“It’s another one down,” Thomas added in his post-victory interview. “I want to keep building on that, and I feel like I’m really just trying to get better every year, and we’re improving in some of the right areas. Next week (at the Sony Open) we will try to get to 13.”