Last year, Justin Thomas began his breakthrough season by sweeping the PGA Tour’s two January Hawaii stops. Three more tournament wins and one PGA Tour Player of the Year award later, he’ll try and recapture that magic at the 2018 Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui and the Sony Open in Honolulu.
Even after winning the Tournament of Champions last January, Thomas truly announced his arrival to the golf world the following week at the Sony Open. There, he became the youngest player ever and just seventh overall in PGA Tour history to shoot a 59. That record first round was followed by rounds of 64, 65, and 65, which came en route to a seven-stroke victory and the breaking of the PGA Tour’s 36 and 72-hole records.
Since then, the 24 year old has backed his reputation as the game’s brightest young star with several other tour wins, a major victory, and some record-breaking performances.
In June, Thomas shot a 63 during the third round of the US Open, putting him at a tournament record nine under par for the day en route to a ninth-place finish. A month later, at the PGA Championship, Thomas recorded his first major win by going from fourth to first during the final round.
At the Dell Technologies Championship, Thomas put himself in rare company by becoming just the fourth golfer under 25 in tour history to win five tournaments in a single season. He ended the campaign by finishing second at the Tour Championship, just one stroke behind champion Xander Schauffele. His remarkable season earned him both PGA and PGA Tour Player of the Year honours.
So far in the new 2018 season, Thomas has picked up where he left off. In October, he won the inaugural CJ Cup in South Korea after beating Marc Leishman in a playoff. Prior to that, he recorded a top-20 finish at the CIMB Classic, a tournament he had won the previous two years.
Now the No.3 ranked player in the world, Thomas’ next tour stops are back in Hawaii, where his launch up the rankings first began. To retain his crowd at either event, he’ll have to best many of golf’s other young talents, like Jordan Spieth, Daniel Berger, Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm, along with a full field of tour veterans.
The public’s temperature remains high on golf’s youth revolution. Both betting sites in the UK and sportsbooks currently list Thomas at odds of 28/1 to win the 2018 tournament outright, tied for eighth most favorable. Of the nine golfers listed with equal or better odds, all are age 30 or younger.
Before the Hawaii stops, there will first be a tune-up with Tiger. Thomas and Woods have never played with one another on tour before, but will be paired together for December’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. Although it’s just a charity tournament, and Tiger is rumoured to be hitting like his old self, it could be a metaphoric moment where we see the old master (again) passed by another proverbial student.
The official field for the Sentry Tournament of Champions will be announced on December 28 and on January 5 for the Sony Open in Hawaii.