The year is off to a fast start on the PGA Tour as Joaquin Niemann and Harris English took it to extra innings to win the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua’s Plantation Course in Maui, Hawaii. With both players finishing at 25-under-par, the low-scoring affair needed just one more hole to determine the champion. English sealed the win with a birdie in the sudden death playoff, earning him his third PGA Tour win and first since 2013.
The leaderboard was congested all week, and it wasn’t until late Sunday afternoon that English, Niemann and Justin Thomas separated themselves from the pack, but all three faltered down the stretch. English failed to convert a routine up and down for par on 16, while Thomas buried his chances at the 17th with a three-putt bogey. However, it was Niemann’s short miss for birdie on the final hole of regulation that gave fresh life to his chasers, which ultimately proved all too costly.
Despite finishing the week in the top spot, English was far from favourite when he made the turn after a slow start to his round. But his play improved coming in, making four birdies in a five-hole stretch to put himself back into contention, again making birdie on 18 to force the playoff.
“The past few months I’ve had some struggles on Saturdays and I overcame that this week. I knew I had to come out and play well and I did that. It’s been an awesome ride,” said English after the victory. “I need to be the best version of myself and do the things that I do well and always work at it.”
With the victory, English gains an invitation to the Masters, will return to the Sentry Tournament of Champions in 2022, and, perhaps most importantly, will have full Tour status through to the 2022-2023 season.
Typically, this tournament is only open to the previous year’s tournament winners, but the field was expanded to include those who made it to the FedExCup’s TOUR Championship—which is how English gained entry—as a result of the pandemic cancelling numerous events. Plainly put, the Sentry Tournament of Champions is a lovely way for the guys to ease into 2021. With a limited field and no cut, everyone’s guaranteed a paycheck, which makes the journey to beautiful Maui, Hawaii all the more enjoyable (yes, being a top PGA Tour pro is a great gig, if you can get it).
Two Canadians were in the field—Mackenzie Hughes and Nick Taylor (who finished T29). Hughes, who came tied for dead last, succinctly summed up the week’s vibes in this optimistic post-round tweet.
The Tour will be staying in picturesque Hawaii for another week as the Sony Open begins Thursday at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.