Countdown to Kapalua for U.S. Presidents Cup team members
Fowler, Johnson, Chappel and Koepka ready to open 2018 in Maui
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii – Rickie Fowler came from seven shots back Sunday at the HERO World Challenge with 11 birdies in the final round to win by four. Next stop? Maui for the Sentry Tournament of Champions (Jan. 3-7), where he’ll compete against seven of his teammates from the victorious 2017 United States Presidents Cup team in the winners-only field.
This installment of the Countdown to Kapalua looks back on the 2017 victories by Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell, and Brooks Koepka.
Rickie Fowler (The Honda Classic) – Third Appearance (Best Finish: 5, 2016)
Fresh off a win at the HERO World Challenge, Fowler’s next start will come in Maui at the Sentry Tournament of Champions after earning his way into the field with his fourth career victory at The Honda Classic in February.
Following a career-best seventh-place finish in the 2017 FedExCup standings, Fowler’s game has been equally sharp to open the 2017-18 season, finishing runner-up at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, one shot shy of Patton Kizzire, and besting the 18-player field in The Bahamas at the HERO World Challenge.
“After the hot start with these two finishes through the fall going into what will be a little break before we go to Maui, I'm looking forward to next year,” said Fowler after his win Sunday. “I think the big thing was to not, I guess, not lose what we had going this past year because it was a very solid year across the board, and I think what we're going to work on going forward is just picking up a few of the little things that could have made just that -- just that difference to put us in the winner's circle more on Sunday because we gave ourselves a lot of chances. No, this is a nice way to go into Christmas.”
Dustin Johnson (Genesis Open, World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, THE NORTHERN TRUST) – Eighth Appearance (Best Finish: 1, 2013)
The No. 1 player in the world and 2013 Sentry Tournament of Champions winner Dustin Johnson secured his spot in the winners-only field with four victories during the 2017 calendar year, including a stretch of three consecutive victories in February and March at the Genesis Open, World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, and World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play.
In seven previous starts at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the 2013 champion has taken a liking to The Plantation Course at Kapalua with top-10s in his last five starts in Maui.
Johnson took over No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a dominant five-shot victory at the Genesis Open, where he led by as much as nine shots at one point in the final round. During one stretch, he played 49 consecutive holes without a bogey at The Riviera Country Club, which had long been one of his favorite courses on the PGA TOUR schedule. With the victory, Johnson became the 20th player to reach No. 1 in the world.
World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship
Johnson captured his second victory in a row with a one-shot win at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. The 33-year-old survived a back nine challenge from Jon Rahm by making par from a fairway bunker at the 72nd hole to become the fifth player to win in his first start after taking over No. 1 in the world rankings.
World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play
After a dominant week in which Johnson never trailed for 112 holes of match play, he became the first player ever to win each of the four World Golf Championships in a career. The victory was his third consecutive win and marked the second week in a row that he held off Jon Rahm for the title, beating Rahm 1-up in the 36-hole final.
THE NORTHERN TRUST
In a playoff between the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world, Johnson emerged victorious over Jordan Spieth with a birdie on the first playoff hole for his 17th career PGA TOUR title. Entering the final round three shots back, he carded a 4-under 66 to force a playoff with Spieth. He then proceeded to hit arguably the drive of the year, taking an aggressive line over the water with his 341-yard tee shot to set up a 60-yard wedge in for his second en route to winning the first of four FedExCup Playoff events.
Brooks Koepka (United States Open Championship) – Second Appearance (Best Finish: T3, 2016)
Despite a T3 in his first appearance at the 2016 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Brooks Koepka wasn’t able to secure a return to Kapalua in 2017. He’ll be able to atone for that in 2018 though after winning the U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills for his second career PGA TOUR victory to secure a spot in the field in Maui.
“That's probably the most emotion I've ever showed coming down the stretch,” said Koepka after his victory. “I mean, it feels amazing to get my name on this trophy with so many other great names. It's truly an honor.”
Koepka enjoyed a banner 2016-2017 season, finishing seventh in the FedExCup standings and working his way into the top-10 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time. Following a T2 finish in his lone start of the 2017-18 season at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, the 27-year-old will be heading to Hawaii in search of his third career PGA TOUR victory.
Kevin Chappell (Valero Texas Open) – First Appearance
With an eight-foot birdie on the 72nd hole at the Valero Texas Open that led to arguably the best celebration of 2017, Kevin Chappell secured his first PGA TOUR title. That win led to being named to the United States team for the Presidents Cup for the first time ever and also his first trip to the Sentry Tournament of Champions. After 180 starts and six career runner-ups, Chappell’s big breakthrough came at the very event where he logged his first runner-up in 2011.
“Just a big relief for me. I don't have to answer that question anymore,” Chappell said after the victory. “Feel like I have a base to kind of jump off from with my career moving forward.”
With his first trophy sitting in front of him, Chappell’s thoughts immediately turned to what the win would do for his 2018 scheduling.
“Now, getting a win, I can buy some plane tickets to Maui,” Chappell said.