NewsCO.com.au – US PGA Championship: Justin Thomas wins maiden major at Quail Hollow

August 14, 2017

Justin Thomas wins maiden major championship
US PGA Championship – final leaderboard
-8 Thomas (US); -6 Molinari (Ita), Reed (US) Oosthuizen (SA); -5 Fowler (US), Matsuyama (Jpn); -4 DeLaet (Can), Kisner (US)
Selected others:-1 Smith (Eng), Day (Aus); level D Johnson (US), Casey (Eng); +1 McIlroy (NI), Poulter (Eng); +2 Spieth (US); +5 Lowry (Ire); +11 Westwood (Eng)

Justin Thomas won his first major with a thrilling two-shot victory at the US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

The American, 24, trailed leader Kevin Kisner by two shots going into the final round but hit a three-under-par 68 to win on eight under.

Francesco Molinari (67), Patrick Reed (67) and Louis Oosthuizen (70) finished in a three-way tie for second.

“I can’t put it into words right now. I’m glad to have a trophy now,” an emotional Thomas said.

Thomas made six birdies in his round including a spectacular pair on holes 10 and 13.

Rickie Fowler hit a four-under-par 67 to tie for fifth alongside Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama (72) on five under.

At one stage Thomas, Molinari, Matsuyama, Kisner and Chris Stroud were tied for the lead on the back nine.

Kisner, who had led after each of the opening three rounds and for much of the early part of his round, fell away late on as a three-over-par 72 left him four over for the tournament.

Thomas, from Kentucky, is the eighth first-time major winner from golf’s last nine majors.

The story of Thomas’ dramatic win

Thomas’ ball clings on for dear life

Thomas started the round on five under but two bogeys in his opening three holes saw him slip to three shots behind leader Kisner.

However, the world number 14 picked up birdies at seven and nine while his fellow American slipped back after hitting into the water on the seventh hole.

At that point, Thomas’ playing partner Matsuyama – bidding to become Japan’s first male major champion – took the outright lead after back-to-back birdies but he later faltered on the back nine.

Thomas’ round gained even greater momentum when on the 10th, he rolled a birdie putt towards the hole where it clung to the lip for 15 seconds before eventually dropping.

“It was funny because it snuck up on the hole. We read it going left and then a bit right and it never came back right,” Thomas said.

“Once it got there I felt it would go in but it didn’t so I acted like a child and had a tantrum. Suddenly it went in and I didn’t look so dumb!”

Thomas has been good friends with fellow American and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth since childhood

The American moved two shots clear of the field on the 13th when he chipped in from the edge of the green, as the crowd erupted into life.

From there, Thomas made another birdie on 17 and despite a bogey on the last, posted eight under as the score to reach with one pairing left on the course.

That meant Kisner had to eagle the 18th to force a play-off, but he found the water and double-bogeyed.

Analysis

Iain Carter, BBC golf correspondent:

This was an outstanding performance, taking the initiative, seizing the moment. The birdie at the 17th meant he could drop a shot at the last.

It was a fourth victory of the year for Justin Thomas. He really kicked on this week. The way he finished this off was very impressive and now he rises to number six in the world.

Thomas topped the average driving distance rankings for the tournament

Jay Townsend, BBC golf pundit:

The strength of Justin Thomas is everything. He hits it a mile, he can hit it high. He is a more talented hitter of the ball than Justin Spieth. although I don’t think there’s a more talented all-round golfer at making scores than Spieth at the moment.

If you think about Spieth, Thomas, Reed, Koepka, Dustin Johnson – these are young guys that are going to carry the US Ryder Cup team for probably the next five matches. I think the tide has probably turned.

How the world’s best fared

Rory McIlroy was the pre-tournament favourite at Quail Hollow where he has won twice on the PGA Tour and holds the course record, but two 72s and a 73 left him out of contention after three days.

The Northern Ireland player improved on the final round with a three-under 68 to finish on one over, but he will end 2017 without a major – his third consecutive season without winning one of golf’s four biggest tournaments – and suggested he may miss the rest of 2017 because of a rib injury.

Shots of the day – final round

Jordan Spieth was also fancied ahead of the tournament on the back of his win at The Open as he looked to become the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam.

But, starting at three over, the American hit a final round 70 to finish two over, meaning his hopes of breaking Tiger Woods’ record ended.

Woods was aged 24 years, seven months and 25 days when he completed the full set of majors and Spieth will be 25 by the time of the 2018 US PGA – the only one of the four majors he has not won.

The 2015 champion Jason Day was battling at the top of the leaderboard before a quadruple bogey on the 18th in his third round and closed with a one-under 70 to finish one under for the tournament.

World number one Dustin Johnson ended with a four-under-par 67, including seven birdies, to finish level par.

Where did the British players finish?

Englishman Jordan Smith, 24, was making his major debut

England’s Jordan Smith, competing in his first major, was the highest-placed British player on one under after a three-under 68.

Compatriot Paul Casey hit a 71 to finish tied for 13th at level par for the tournament.

Fellow Englishman Ian Poulter’s two-under-par final round of 69 gave him a top-25 finish at one over.

Further down the leaderboard, Chris Wood carded a final round 73 to end three over, Tommy Fleetwood finished eight over after a final round 74, while Lee Westwood hit a four-over-par 75 for 11 over.

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