Tournament of Champions 2020: Justin Thomas Defeats Reed, Schauffele in Playoff

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2020

KAPALUA, HAWAII - JANUARY 05: Justin Thomas of the United States waves to the crowd on the first tee during the third round of the Sentry Tournament Of Champions at the Kapalua Plantation Course on January 05, 2020 in Kapalua, Hawaii. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Justin Thomas opened 2020 with a victory in the Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii, edging out Patrick Reed and Xander Schauffele in a sudden-death playoff.

This is Thomas' second win of the season after he came out on top in THE CJ CUP in October. He collects $1.34 million for the winner's share of the tournament purse.

Here's a look at the top finishers.

         

Tournament of Champions Leaderboard

1. Justin Thomas (-14)

T2. Patrick Reed (-14)

T2. Xander Schauffele (-14)

4. Patrick Cantlay (-11)

T5. Rickie Fowler (-10)

T5. Joaquin Niemann (-10)

T7. Dustin Johnson (-9)

T7. Collin Morikawa (-9)

T7. Gary Woodland (-9)

10. Jon Rahm (-8)

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Keeping up with the twists and turns in the playoff was difficult, especially when it became a head-to-head battle between Thomas and Reed. Thomas couldn't even watch Reed's final putt on the second hole after Reed had previously missed his birdie chance and needed a par to stay alive.

Thomas would probably be happy if he never saw No. 18 at Kapalua again. He struggled on the hole all day, and a poor approach seemingly doomed him on the third playoff hole. His second shot was well short of the green and narrowly missed the penalty area to the left of the fairway.

However, a masterful third shot landed on the green and rolled about three feet from the cup.

Reed's approach to the green left him with a difficult birdie putt, and his effort traveled to the right of its intended destination.

Putting for the tournament, Thomas was right on the money.

The 26-year-old took a winding road to get there but reached the finish line in the end. He now stands in lofty company.

Thomas could have effectively put one hand on the championship as he approached the No. 16 tee. He had a two-shot advantage on Reed, who was already in the clubhouse, and Schauffele.

Instead, Thomas sent his drive into a bunker to the right of the fairway. He needed two more shots to get onto the green and then two-putted to settle for a bogey. That kept the door wide open for Schauffele.

Thomas made a catastrophic error with his second shot on the 18th hole to provide Schauffele with another lifeline. Rather than playing it safe on the par five, he attempted to reach the green in two. The strategy backfired as his approach hooked to the left and into the penalty area.

Schauffele, meanwhile, got onto the green and had an eagle putt for the title. A birdie would have been enough for Schauffele after Thomas missed his par putt, but the defending champion couldn't capitalize. His putt rolled to the right of the cup, setting the stage for the three-way playoff.

Schauffele was the first golfer eliminated from the playoff as his putter let him down again. He knew his eagle putt was poor as soon as he made contact. A par wasn't enough to stay alive after Reed and Thomas birdied the first sudden-death hole.

He'll leave Kapalua ruing what was a golden chance to win the Tournament of Champions for the second year in a row.

Elsewhere in the round, Patrick Cantlay posted the second-best score (five-under 68) on the day to move into fourth place at 11 under. Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson were both four-under to climb up the leaderboard as well. Fowler earned a share of fifth place, with Johnson tying for seventh.

The PGA Tour stays in Hawaii for the Sony Open, which tees off Thursday at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

Matt Kuchar enters as the reigning champion. He shot two over Sunday at Kapalua to finish in a tie for 14th, so the Sony Open will provide him with an opportunity to rebound.

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