The calendar year on the PGA TOUR began on Maui in Hawaii at the Plantation Course at Kapalua for the Sentry Tournament of Champions last weekend. A stellar field was eventually bested by Harris English, who beat Joaquim Niemann on the first playoff hole for his first win since 2013.
The two leaders shot 25-under-par scores of 267, one shot ahead of Justin Thomas and another stroke clear of Ryan Palmer. Niemann began the final round five shots behind English and Palmer but fired a final-round 64 to force extra holes.
Niemann’s fourth round was the best in the field by two shots, but he failed to birdie the par-5 18th hole in regulation play. His finishing par opened the door for English and Thomas to win or force a playoff.
Thomas came to the 17th hole at 24-under par, needing just a par-birdie finish to have a chance at a playoff.
Instead, the defending champion three-putted the 17th for a bogey, then failed to hole an eagle chip on the 72nd hole to come up a shot behind Niemann and English. Thomas was caught on a microphone uttering a homophobic slur after a missed putt in the third round.
He issued an apology before play on Sunday, and his closing 66 didn’t seem to reflect any negative ramifications from the controversy.
English, whose last PGA TOUR victory was the 2014 OHL Classic at Mayakoba, entered the tournament at +3500 odds to emerge as the winner. A modest $10 wager on English paid off with a take of $350. The Sentry Tournament of Champions was the former Georgia Bulldog’s third win on tour.
The favorite in the futures odds at +650 was Dustin Johnson, the world’s top-ranked player. Johnson struggled with his putting in the first round, settling for a two-under-par 71. By the time he reached the back nine on Sunday, the defending FedEx Cup champion was in contention.
An errant tee shot on the 12th hole resulted in a lost ball, and the double-bogey six dropped Johnson from 19-under to 17-under-par. A bogey on the 13th hole ended his chances for a win, but two birdies on the way to the clubhouse resulted in an 18-under-par 274 and an 11th-place finish.
Thomas had odds of +800 to win the Sentry. He definitely played well enough to win, and the third-place finish moved him to third place in the FedEx Cup standings.
Jon Rahm, who, like Thomas, was at +800 odds to win, was frustrated on the greens all week but still managed a seventh-place tie after a 20-under-par 272. The 26-year-old Spaniard continued his strong play, but it just seems as if he should have more than his five PGA TOUR wins.
The fourth player in the futures odds at +1000, Xander Schauffele quietly crafted a 21-under score to tie for fifth. He made a pair of eagles in the fourth round and closed with a five-under-par 32 on his last nine holes. A third-round 70 kept him from being in contention over the weekend.
The PGA TOUR’s next stop stays in Hawaii but moves to the island of Oahu and the city of Honolulu for the Sony Open this weekend.