Thomas breaks scoring records in winning Sony Open
HONOLULU (AP) One of the gifts Justin Thomas received from winning the Sony Open was a 106-pound book that was said to be the largest in the world. Contrary to the whispers going around the room at Waialae Country Club, it was not filled with the scoring records he set this week.
This was ”Equation of Time,” a collection of landscape photography by Australian artist Peter Lik.
Thomas put together his own masterpiece.
It began with a 15-foot eagle putt on his final hole Thursday for a 59, only the eighth sub-60 round on the PGA Tour. It ended with a two-putt birdie from 60 feet that gave him the lowest 72-hole score in tour history.
In between was golf so dominant, from his power to his putting, that the first full-field event of the year was a one-man show.
”I’m not joking when I say I won the other tournament,” Justin Rose said after finishing seven shots behind.
With a lei draped around his neck, Thomas headed home with two weeks of golf that elevated his status beyond a ranking that rose to No. 8 in the world.
The 23-year-old from Kentucky now has four PGA Tour victories, three of them this season dating to his successful title defense at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. The other two were in Hawaii, starting with his three-shot victory at Kapalua last week in the SBS Tournament of Champions.
”I just can’t get over how fast these two weeks went by and how much of a blur they almost are,” Thomas said. ”I played some great golf. I’m really excited where my game is and how comfortable I’m feeling when I’m out there.”
Only two other players since 1970 have won three of their first five tournaments to start a PGA Tour season. Tiger Woods did it three times. Johnny Miller did it twice. Woods in 2009, at the Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational, was the last player to win in consecutive weeks by at least three shots.
More than the victories was the manner in which Thomas demolished Waialae.
He set records at the Sony Open for the lowest score after all four rounds. His seven-shot lead after 54 holes was another tournament record, beating the mark that had stood since Jack Nicklaus led by six shots in 1974.
More impressive were the records for all PGA Tour events.
The biggest one was what Thomas wanted Sunday, and that birdie on the 18th hole did the trick. He shot 253, breaking by one the record Tommy Armour III set in the 2003 Texas Open. Once he got over the nerves from hearing that no one had ever lost a seven-shot lead on the PGA Tour, he took aim.
Thomas ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn, moved into position with a flip wedge over a bunker to 3 feet and a 12-foot par save, and then got the birdie he needed on the final hole.
”The whole day, I knew I needed to shoot 5 under,” said Thomas, and that’s what he did, closing with a 5-under 65.
He also broke the PGA Tour mark for 36 holes at 123 and tied for the 54-hole record of 188 that Steve Stricker had set in 2010 at the John Deere Classic.
His father, Mike Thomas, has kept the golf balls from each of his victories dating to junior golf, and this brought the tally to 130. His father also keeps the golf balls from special moments, such as the 59 and scoring records. So when he asked for his son’s golf ball after he tied the 54-hole mark, Thomas said not to bother. That was a tie.
That’s what kind of week it was.
Make that two weeks.
Ernie Els is the only other player to sweep the two PGA Tour events in Hawaii, and this performance might have been even better. Els set the 72-hole record to par at Kapalua in 2003 at 31 under, then won in a playoff at the Sony Open after finishing at 16 under.
Thomas was two better, playing the two weeks in 49 under.
He said on Friday that he hasn’t ”shown the world my best golf.” He came pretty close these last two weeks.
”I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m playing OK,” Thomas said. ”I would take the golf I played the last few weeks every week I play.”
The Peter Lik book, meanwhile, had to be shipped home to Thomas. He already was taking quite the bounty home from Hawaii.