By Ann Liguori
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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (WFAN) — Justin Thomas won his eighth PGA Tour title Sunday, beating Luke List after a one-hole, sudden death playoff at the Honda Classic.
Thomas hit a 3-wood over the water and onto the green of the par-5 18th hole, two-putting for birdie for the win, while List’s tee shot missed the fairway, costing him his first PGA Tour championship.
The Champion course at PGA National Resort & Spa rarely lacks electricity during the tour event, with many passionate spectators enjoying what is considered one of the top party spots in professional golf — the Goslings Bear Trap on the 16th green, which also has views of the signature, par-3 17th. There’s also the massive party that takes place in the lobby of the resort every evening during tournament week.
But add Tiger Woods to the mix — and a contending Woods at that — and the energy level and atmosphere over the weekend were over the top.
Woods was 3 under par through eight holes after a birdie on No. 8 put him three shots back. He then bogeyed the ninth. He birdied the 14th to get to within four shots of the lead, but his ball found the water on the 15th for the second straight double-bogey there. His three-putt for bogey on the 16th moved him to even par, and he finished with a 70 — even for the tournament.
His 12th-place finish is his best on the PGA Tour since the 2015 Wyndham Championship.
His stats for the week were off the charts. He ranked fourth in driving distance, averaging 319 yards, and he was first in proximity to the hole with approach shots (29 feet, 3 inches). His club head speed was clocked at an impressive 127 mph Sunday and 128 mph Saturday.
“Thought I played well this week, I really did,” Woods said after his round. “I had control of it. I didn’t play the last few holes well a couple days, but overall pleased with the progress I made and gave myself a chance at it. I was 3 under par, had four holes to go, and if I had gotten two or three more coming in, I could have posted early.
“I feel very happy the way I played the entire week. I really controlled my ball flight. This wind, you can get exposed pretty easily, and I felt like I had control. The solid thing about this week is I missed the ball in the correct spots, and I had better control of my ball and that awe willed me to get up and down.”
Woods said his body felt good after playing in back-to-back PGA Tour events, although he didn’t make the cut at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club the previous week.
“I just need to keep feeling good,” he said. “Get back in the gym and keep it strong, and I feel like I really hit it well and I was able to control, especially in this wind. It’s not easy to do, and I was able to do it most of the week.
“Each and every time I’ve come out to tournaments, I’m getting the feel of the round faster,” he added.
“I’ve been away from tournament golf for so long that I’m starting to feel the rounds. I’m starting to get into it quicker, feel the pace, feel the shots and get a better sense of it. The more I play tournament golf, the better I’ll get at it.”
Thomas and List put on quite a show, battling it out the last eight holes, both clutch around the Bear Trap, maneuvering masterfully around three of the toughest holes in golf – 15, 16 and 17. On the 18th hole in regulation, Thomas almost holed a wedge from the rough before forcing the playoff with List. And then in the playoff, Thomas’ second shot — his 3-wood to the 18th green over the water — was nothing short of spectacular.
It was a brilliant win for the 24-year-old.
Even so, he realized the crowds followed Woods all week.
“I did say that to Jimmy (his caddie),” said Thomas, “It’s so weird. It was a good gallery, good crowd, but it wasn’t obviously anything big. It wasn’t anything remotely close to Tiger’s. But he fully deserves that he is the needle. He moves the needle. He’s the reason probably why the attendance this week was as high as it was, and, you know, they weren’t coming out here to watch Luke List and Justin Thomas. They were coming out here to watch Tiger, so I don’t blame them. I’d go watch him, too, instead of me.”
Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori