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5 Things We Learned at the 2018 Sentry Tournament of Champions

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Hello again! Happy New Year and best wishes on all your resolutions. Thirty-four touring pros resolved to win again in 2018, but only one of them was able to check that box this week at Kapalua. A strong field assembled on Maui for the first event of the new year, but there was a clause: you had to win in the calendar year 2017. For all the Tiger Woods talk, he didn’t attend. Same for guys such as Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson and Tony Finau. What was there were the five things we typically learn at major championships. Since none of the other major women’s or men’s tours were in action this week, the TOC was pretty major. Welcome home, televised golf. Sit back and enjoy the first 5 Things We Learned of 2018.

5) The ground game is alive and well

We learned that the way to play the wind and firm turf hasn’t changed since the days of Allan Robertson, Joyce Wethered and Old Tom Morris. Thanks to the sometimes-cooperative trade winds of the Hawaiian islands, fellows were shaping shots under and into the wind, and landing them 30 or 40 yards short of the green, using slopes as their assistance. Dustin Johnson holed one of these for eagle on Saturday, and nearly holed a drive on Sunday for a par-four ace! The next time (hopefully, all the time) things aren’t so soft around your home course, practice what you saw at Kapalua.

Related: Dustin Johnson’s Winning WITB

4) Jon Rahm might catch Dustin Johnson one day

Rahm alluded to how much he likes to measure himself against the world’s top-ranked male professional golfer. He took DJ to the final hole in the championship match of the 2017 WGC Match Play event, but hasn’t cracked the dense veneer of the 6-foot 4-inch, 190-pound titan. Will it happen in 2018? Judging by Rahm’s play at Kapalua, I’m saying he has a chance. Rahm and the other 32 were chasing the second spot after DJ said, “here comes a Sunday 65,” and the Basque bomber was able to edge Brian Harman out by one shot, finishing at 16-under par, and 8 shots behind the conqueror.

Not much happens in Rahm’s swing, so not much can go wrong. That’s a nice recipe for success.

3) A man of our stature

Well, mine, anyway. I top out at 5-feet 9-inches, so Brian Harman is kinda my hero. He also won the Porter Cup (just north of Casa Montesano) in 2007 with an all-time low score, so he’s also an adopted hometown hero. Harman gave Brooks Koepka more than a run at Erin Hills (a long-hitter’s dream course) at the 2017 U.S. Open, and there he was, chasing DJ all week at another bomber’s delight, Kapalua. Harman’s action is so imitable for the under-six feet set; I just have to watch it in a mirror. Here’s to a great 2018 for the man of average height, Brian Harman. His final-round 72 was his only score above 69 all week, and his 15-under total earned him solo third place.

2) Horses for courses

We should all have Dustin Johnson’s penchant for forgetting. When asked about the impact of his final-round falter at the HSBC-Champions in China in late October, Johnson acted as if it took place years ago. That’s awesome. He also factored in his familiarity with (and ability to score on) the Plantation course at Kapalaua against everyone’s relative-vagueness with the other place in two words: different courses. Johnson’s game is a thing of beauty. His deftness with the wedges is unparalleled on tour, and we’re not talking about someone bereft of strength or height. Is he imitable? No. Is he invincible? Perhaps.

1) Sergio can thank those unlucky socks

Sergio Garcia’s 2017 Masters triumph was brilliant work. If not for the slip-and-tumble that Dustin Johnson took early in the week that forced him to withdraw from the tournament, who knows? If DJ likes Augusta National half as much as he likes Kapalua, he might gather in a second major title quite early in 2018.

Seriously, who else on earth can do things such as this…

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. allan

    Jan 8, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    …. apology accepted …. on behalf of clan …. 🙂

  2. Ronald Montesano

    Jan 8, 2018 at 11:32 am

    Currently working to change “Alan” to “Allan” with apologies to the Robertson clan.

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