One of the top horses for courses this week just so happens to be one of the best players in the world.
Justin Thomas won at Kapalua in 2017 and 2020 and has five top-fives in seven appearances.
Thomas picked up his first trophy on the island in 2017 when he posted 67-67-67-69 to win by three over Hideki Matsuyama. He was solid all around that week and finished second in the field in greens in regulation (87.5%).
In 2020, JT carded 67-73-69-69 to win in blustery conditions. He beat Patrick Reed and another Kapalua conqueror, Xander Schauffele, in a playoff.
Thomas was second in the field in strokes gained putting (10.044 total) and second in SG approach (5.729).
The uneven lies and windy conditions common at this event can be a nuisance, but Thomas still acknowledges and relishes the fact that aggression is still needed to finish high on the leaderboard.
"“I think the fairways are big enough and the greens are kind of bowl-like enough to where you can still get it close to the hole even when it is blowing pretty hard,” Thomas was transcribed by ASAP Sports in 2021. “So you really just have to go out and execute.”"
In 2019, he fired 67-72-70-65 for third place, in 2021 Thomas shot 65-69-68-66 for third and last year overcame an opening 74 to finish with 67-61-65 for T-5th.
The 61 tied the course record shared by Matt Jones and Jon Rahm, who also posted it that week.
Thomas won just once in 2022, but it was a big one. He came back on Sunday to win his second PGA Championship and second major.
He was still his ultra-consistent self with 11 top-20s and just two missed cuts.
Thomas ranked fourth on the PGA Tour last season in total strokes gained per round (1.68). Outside of putting where he was a shade over average at 85th (.091), he was in the top 20 in every other SG category.
Inaccuracy off the tee is not a big dissuading factor this week.
Making red numbers is, though. JT was third in birdie average (4.58) and fourth in par-5 scoring (4.47).
Thomas hasn’t let the clubs collect dust in December. He took fifth at the Hero World Challenge and tied for second alongside his father at the PNC Championship.