Your early leader to be the breakout superstar of this PGA Tour season? That would be Justin Thomas, a good friend of Jordan Spieth's -- both those guys are from a talented high school Class of 2011 (not the same school) alongside Daniel Berger, Patrick Rodgers, Ollie Schniederjans and Emiliano Grillo. Thomas and Spieth also dueled in college when Thomas was at Alabama and Spieth at Texas.
Spieth has distanced himself from those guys a bit with all his success, but Thomas won the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua on Sunday for his third career PGA Tour title and second this season. It was Thomas' first pro title in the United States as his other two came at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.
Thomas, 23, had a five-shot lead on the 14th tee Sunday over red-hot Hideki Matsuyama, and things got interesting when Thomas double-bogeyed No. 15. His lead would be down to just one when Matsuyama had an eagle. But on No. 17, Thomas hit a spectacular approach to 3 feet, tapped in for birdie and that was pretty much it when Matsuyama three-putted the same hole. Thomas, who finished at 22-under 270, is the first multiple winner on the PGA Tour this season and he's the only guy who has beaten Matsuyama of late. In his last six tournaments worldwide, Matsuyama has four wins and a pair of runner-up finishes -- both to Thomas. He moved to a career-high No. 12 in the world rankings, joining Spieth (No. 5) and Matsuyama (No. 6) as the only players under age 25 in the Top 15. The defending champion Spieth closed with a 65 to tie for third with Pat Perez and Ryan Moore.
My pick to win the SBS Tournament of Champions was Patrick Reed, and he finished T6 at 15 under. So I hit on him (-150) and Matsuyama (-400) for a Top-10 finish. With a small field in the winners-only event, the prices were really short for a Top 10. I also liked Brandt Snedeker for a Top 10, but he was T14 at 12 under. Also hit on Matsuyama at +110 for top rest of the world finisher. Head-to-head, I hit on Matsuyama (-130) over Jason Day (even), Dustin Johnson (-130) over Day (even), and Spieth (-130) over Day (even). I mentioned I thought the world No. 1 Day would struggle a bit and he finished T12.
This week the Tour moves to Waialae Country Club in Honolulu for the first full-field event of the New Year, the Sony Open. It's the 52nd year the par-70 course hosts this event. A total of 22 players from the SBS Tournament of Champions are set to play, including Thomas. Since the Tournament of Champions moved to Hawaii in 1999, 12 Sony Open winners have played it after Kapalua. Ernie Els in 2003 is the only player to sweep in the same year. The courses in Kapalua and Maui are totally different, with this week's much shorter and flatter.
The defending champion is Argentina's Fabian Gomez. He made seven straight birdies around the turn on Sunday -- he started the day four shots out of the lead -- en route to an 8-under 62. Gomez then beat Snedeker on the second playoff hole. Gomez's 62 was the best-ever final round for a Sony Open champion. Zac Blair, who shared the 54-hole lead with Snedeker, had a 10-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to join the playoff but just missed. The last player to go back-to-back in this event was Jimmy Walker in 2014-15.
Golf Odds: Sony Open Favorites
Spieth is the +600 favorite at Bovada . It's only his second time playing here, and he missed the cut in 2014. His strong result at the Tournament of Champions was Spieth's fourth Top 10 in his last five worldwide events.
Matsuyama is +700 with Thomas at +1400. I touched on how well Matsuyama is going above. But he has missed the cut four times here. Thomas missed the cut at the Sony last year and was sixth in 2015 (tied course record with a 61 in the second round).
Walker (+2000), Snedeker and Paul Casey (both +2500) round out the favorites. Walker won here by a whopping nine shots in 2015 at 23 under and by one the year before at 17 under. He finished 13th last week. Snedeker had that runner-up here last year. Casey last played the Sony Open in 2015 and was 30th.
Golf Odds: Sony Open Picks
For a Top 10, I'll go with Spieth (-185), Matsuyama (-150) despite his Sony Open track record and Walker (+175). I'm not a fan of Thomas this week. For top European, go with Justin Rose (+225), and Marc Leishman (+135) as top Aussie.
Head-to-head, I like Chris Kirk (-115) over Zach Johnson (-115), Scott Piercy (-115) over Russell Knox (-115), Pat Perez (-110) over Berger (-120), Rose (-125) over Gary Woodland (-105), and Snedeker (-115) over Casey (-115).
You can bet a prop of Spieth, Matsuyama and Thomas at +225 vs. the field (-300). Not a bad price. But I'll go with Walker, who has averaged 66.125 in last 16 rounds at the Sony Open and was the first-round leader last week so he's going well at the moment.
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