Justin Thomas wins WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, returns to No. 1


MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Justin Thomas’s body language said it all as he snap-hooked a 5-wood off the tee at the dogleg-left par-4, 15th hole at TPC Southwind. He grabbed the club head with his right hand, slumped forward, and as if praying to St. Jude, begged for a miracle.

“Get lucky!” he yelled.

This tournament is named for the patron saint of lost causes, after all, and so somehow his prayers were answered. Thomas’s ball bounced off the cart path and ended up safely over the water 321 yards away in a gentle patch of rough, leaving him a clear shot and just 50 yards from the hole.

“That was lottery-ticket lucky,” CBS on-course reporter Dottie Pepper said.

Indeed, it was, and Thomas took advantage, pitching to 6 feet and canning the birdie putt to claim the lead.

“That’s the kind of stuff I guess that happens when you win,” Thomas said.

In a city where Elvis Presley called home, Thomas returned to being the king of the golf world. He reclaimed the title of World No. 1, breaking out of a logjam with two late birdies to win the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational by three strokes over Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger, Tom Lewis and Phil Mickelson.

“It was a hard-fought day,” Thomas said. “I haven’t exactly played well coming from behind in the past and I feel like I learned a lot from that.”

Thomas, who started the day trailing by four strokes, made birdies at two of the first three holes at TPC Southwind en route to shooting 5-under 65 for a 72-hole total of 13-under 267.

Thomas grabbed a share of the lead at the ninth with a 21-foot birdie putt, but his lone bogey of the day at 12 created a five-way tie at the top of the leaderboard.

Leaderboard | Photos | Winner’s bag | Money list

Daniel Berger was among them, but he made a bogey at 18 to finish with 65 and Englishman Tom Lewis surrendered a stroke at 17 to fall out of the trophy hunt. Lewis backed up a 61 with a 66 on Sunday for his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour, while Berger earned a spot into the U.S. Open in September. Third-round leader Brendon Todd failed to make a birdie and ballooned to 5-over 75.

That left two of the world’s best – Thomas and Koepka, the defending champion – to duke it out. Thomas pulled in front with the birdie at 15 and pitched to 3 feet at the par-5 16th for another birdie.

“I felt like I kind of got in the zone out there and I wasn’t worried about what everybody else was doing,” Thomas explained. “That is the nice part about not having fans, there were no roars or anything I could think about other than me just executing every shot the best that I could.”

Koepka, who has struggled all season and is still dealing with pain in his surgically-repaired left knee, made a costly bogey at 16 when he pitched over the green, but closed to within one stroke by canning a 40-foot birdie putt at 17. He still had a chance to make birdie at the final hole and catch Thomas, but he tugged his tee shot into the water and made double bogey.

“You’ve got to take an aggressive line on 18, so it is what it is,” said Koepka, who is rounding into form just in time to attempt to three-peat at the PGA Championship next week.

Thomas played alongside Phil Mickelson in the final round, and had Mickelson’s caddie of 25 years, Jim “Bones” Mackay, on his bag this week as a fill-in for Jimmy Johnson, who suffered dizziness two weeks ago at The Memorial. It was a reunion of sorts for Mickelson and Mackay, who won 42 times together before parting ways in 2017, following the Memphis Tour stop. Mackay has become an on-course reporter for NBC and Golf Channel, but returned to active duty last month, caddying for Matthew Fitzpatrick for two weeks, and agreed to work for Thomas at the PGA Championship next week.

“We’re getting more comfortable every day,” Thomas said. “Bones did a great job and I was very lucky that he has been there a lot more than I have, so he handled the situation well.”

Thomas already had notched victories at the CJ Cup in Korea and the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii this season. He held a three-stroke lead with three holes to go at the Workday Charity Open last month, but lost in a playoff. He proved that there was little scar tissue from that defeat. Thomas became the third-youngest player to win 13 times on the PGA Tour behind only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

Thomas, 27, already had notched victories at the CJ Cup in Korea and the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii this season, and extended his lead in the FedEx Cup. He held a three-stroke lead with three holes to go at the Workday Charity Open last month, but lost in a playoff. He proved that there was little scar tissue from that defeat. Thomas became the third-youngest player to win 13 times on the PGA Tour behind only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

“Every milestone and steppingstone is hopefully something that I can learn from and something that will help me even more in the long run,” Thomas said.

Spaniard Jon Rahm, who finished T-54, had a short two-week reign as World No. 1. Thomas previously held the distinction for a total of four weeks, most recently the week of June 3, 2018. He’ll aim to stay atop the rankings at the season’s first major, the PGA Championship, a title he won in 2017.

“I feel like I’m a better player and I feel like I’m more complete of a golfer now than I was then,” Thomas said.

And maybe a luckier one too.



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