There were two men left standing after 72 holes of carnage Sunday at the Honda Classic.
They were two men whose PGA Tour resumes couldn’t be farther apart.
There was Player Of The Year Justin Thomas in at eight-under par with playing partner Luke List, a guy searching for that first victory.
Both played superbly, both birdied the 72nd hole in different manners to send this one into overtime with the sun setting quickly to the west.
List, the overnight leader, pounded two great shots then two-putted for birdie while Thomas had to make up for missing the fairway, and he did by nearly jarring his third from 114 yards. Two tap-in birdies, a quick trip to the scorer’s building then the duo headed back to 18.
Time was of the essence and apparently Thomas knew it. His drive found the short-cut just off the fairway while List lost his way right, into a bad, shaggy lie. Thomas launched a perfect second that stopped 40 feet from the hole while List tugged his layup next to the stands left of the fairway. After his drop, he left himself 15 feet or birdie. J.T. snugged his to just inside three feet then watched as List’s birdie attempt missed.
After List made par, J.T. knocked his in for the win. The PGA Tour owes him a thank-you note, there probably wasn’t enough daylight for a second playoff hole.
Thomas picked up his eighth victory and his seventh in his last 31 events. His star continues to rise.
“It was another level of difficult,” Thomas said afterward. “Luke played unbelievable on the back nine. I stayed patient. It was awesome to come out on top. The difficulty of the course and the people I had to beat, I’m proud of how I played.”
Thomas emerged from a group of contenders that included the unheralded List but also two of Europe’s strongest players — Alex Noren and Race To Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood. Noren failed to birdie the 18th and that proved costly as he posted seven-under and took solo third. A pair of late back-to-back bogeys at the 14th and 15th kept Fleetwood out of the playoff.
Oh yes, and J.T. can chalk up a win with Tiger Woods in the field. Woods had his moments on Sunday. He was three-under for the day but double-bogey water ball at the 15th then a bogey at the 16th took all the wind out of his sails. He finished even par and solo 12th, a good showing nonetheless.
For Thomas it was his second win of the cross-over season. He won last October at the CJ Cup in South Korea. He’ll also move to No. 3 when the world rankings come out this week, pushing Jordan Spieth into fourth.
For List, it was a huge learning experience. “A lot of positives,” he said. “I played well all week. I fought back after not a good front nine. It’s a matter of time. I’ll have to wait a little longer.”