Prior to last week, Ernie Els' 31-under-par winning total at the 2003 edition of the Sentry Tournament of Champions had been the PGA Tour's lowest winning total but the benign conditions at the Plantation Course in Kapalua last week have seen Ernie's record surpassed in style.
My 300.0299/1 Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Matt Jones, shot an incredible 23-under-par over the weekend to beat the PGA Tour's 36-holes scoring record, set by Steve Sticker at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic (-21), and he beat Ernie's record by a stroke with his 32-under-par total. Jones finished fully six strokes ahead of the next man, Patrick Cantlay, but it wasn't even enough to finish second!
A course record equalling 61 by Jon Rahm on Saturday had seen the world number one draw alongside Australia's Cameron Smith with a round to go and the pair had began the fourth and final round tied at the top and five strokes clear of the rest.
It looked highly likely that the pair would battle it out between themselves and although Jones finished only two off the lead, it was only ever really a match on Sunday. Jones hit a low of 15.014/1 after he'd eagled the 13th hole and he went on to eagle the 15th and birdie the last two but in truth, he never really looked like winning and he was always just off the pace.
Rahm, generally a pre-event 11.010/1 chance, hit a low of 1.51/2 early on in round four but it was Smith who edged back in front with this birdie at the fourth hole and he was never headed after that.
Generally a 26.025/1 chance before the off, having been matched at a high of 36.035/1 on Monday, and 44.043/1 in running on Thursday when he opened the event with a par and a bogey, Smith turned for home with a two stroke lead after back-to-back birdies at eight and nine.
Rahm cut Smith's lead to a stroke with a superb birdie two at the par three 11th and we looked set for quite a tussle but him and Smith matched scores exactly after that.
Rahm and Smith both birdied the 13th, 14th and 15th holes before a pair of birdies at the 18th saw the Aussie win by a stroke.
Putting again the key to cracking Kapalua
Jones, who finished alone in third, ranked first for Putting Average and second for Strokes Gained Putting and Smith ranked first for SGP and second for PA so the last six winners have now ranked first or second for Putting Average and as many as 15 of the last 17 winners have ranked inside the top-four for PA.
A strong week with the flatstick is clearly vital but Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green was a key stat again with the top-seven in the SGT2G stats filling the first seven places on the leaderboard.
The 2021 winner, Harris English, only ranked 13th for SGT2G but had he lost the playoff to Joaquín Niemann 12 months ago the last six winners would have ranked third, second, second, third, first and first for that stat.
Smith was the second successive wire-to-wire winner, following Harris English's frontrunning success 12 months ago, and he was the first overseas winner in 12 years.
Fellow Aussie, Geoff Ogilvy, had been the last overseas winner when he successfully defended the title in 2010 and Australians have a fine record at Kapalua. Stuart Appleby won the event for three years in-a-row between 2004 and 2006 and Adam Scott finished second to Vijay Singh in 2007.
Scott also finished second at this week's event, the Sony Open, in 2009, and he's one of a plethora of players to perform admirably at both events.
Smith's success cements strong Sony link
Incredibly, following Smith's win at Kapalua on Sunday, we've now witnessed six men this century go on to win both the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open.
In addition to Smith, the aforementioned Singh, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Zach Johnson and Justin Thomas have all won both events in the last 20 odd years and it's noticeable that Smith is the only one yet to win a major championship but how long will that be the case?
Can Cam kick on and don a Green Jacket?
With Augusta form figures reading 55-5-51-2-10, it's no surprise to see money coming for the 28 year-old Queenslander in the US Masters market.
The Sentry Tournament of Champions has been quite a pointer for the US Masters since it was first staged at the Plantation Course in 1999.
Many a player has performed nicely at both Kapalua and Augusta and between 2013 and 2016 the four editions of the event were won by Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth. Zach and Jordan had both already won the Masters before they won at Kapalua and both DJ and Reed went on to don a Green Jacket after winning here.
Thoughts of Augusta will be far from the mind of Smith for now though. He's one of 24 players to have contented in the Sentry that are hoping from Maui to Oahu to play in this week's Sony Open and it's no surprise to seeing him vying for favouritism with Bryson DeChambeau given he won the event just two years ago. I'll be back later today with my preview.
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