Justin Thomas with WGC-St. Jude Invitational Trophy. Pic: Getty Images
Memphis, Tenn, Aug 3: It was a double delight for Justin Thomas as he not only won his second WGC title, but also got back to World No. 1 after a gap of just over two years. Thomas continues to lead the FedExCup standings. Thomas closed with a 5-under 66 to finish at 13-under 267.
Starting the day in fifth place and four shots behind the leader, Thomas rallied with a solid four-under 31 for front nine and never let go off the momentum despite a bogey on 12th.
Thomas won a contest that was a lot closer than what the three-shot margin over Brooks Koepka showed at the end of the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational on Sunday.
They were separated by just one after Koepka birdied the 17th with a 39-foot putt. Koepka, then 12-under, needed a birdie on 18th to catch up with Thomas, minutes earlier had set the target at 13-under with a par on 18th. Instead Koepka hit his 18th tee shot into water and came out with a double bogey and fell three behind in a tie for second with Daniel Berger (65), Tom Lewis (66) and Phil Mickelson (67).
As the contest approached the end, it was clear that it was Thomas v Koepka. Thomas was in the third last group and Koepka was one behind. Overnight leader Brendon Todd (75) and second placed Korean Byeong Hun An (73) had faded away and ultimately finished T-15 and T-12 respectively.
When Koepka came to the 18th tee, Thomas was on the green tapping an 18-inch putt for par. Koepka landed his tee shot into water, and hit his third shot Into a greenside bunker and finished with a double and Tied-second with three others. Even a bogey would have given him sole second.
Amongst the many milestones he reached on Sunday, was a 13th PGA Tour win at 27, which made him the third-youngest player since 1960 to reach 13 PGA TOUR wins, trailing only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
It was Thomas’ fourth in less than 12 months, third this second and second in 2020. It also made him No. 1 for the second time – the last time he was No. 1 he stayed there for four weeks and this time he dislodged Jon Rahm, who held the top spot for just two weeks after taking it at the Memorial Tournament.
Koepka heads to TPC Harding Park in San Francisco looking to defend his PGA championship title. The last man to win the PGA Championship before Koepka was Thomas in 2017.
Interestingly, Thomas played his final round with Mickelson, whose former caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, was on the bag. Starting the day four behind, Thomas made up the gap with four birdies on the front nine and he missed one other birdie chance on No. 8. Todd, meanwhile, failed to get any birdies in the first seven holes three-putted Par-3 eighth and the bogey meant a tie with Thomas, whose birdie on ninth gave him sole lead.
Thomas’ big challenge was the 12th, where he managed to come out with a bogey after hitting his bunker shot into the rough.
At that time, there was a five-way tie at 11 under with Koepka, Berger, Lewis and Todd. Koepka took the lead on the par-4 13th after an approach to 10 feet of the pin and the birdie took him 12 under.
Thomas caught up with a birdie on 15th and added another on the par-5 16th.
Koepka had his chance on 16th, but his third shot from 42 yards rolled to the back of the green. He came to eight feet from but two-putted from there for a bogey. His final chance of catching up Thomas was on18th, but Koepka took a trip to the water and there ended his chances and it was only a tie for second with Berger, Lewis and Mickelson.
In some interesting asides, Berger logged his fifth top-five in his last six starts going back to T5 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and continuing with T4 at The Honda Classic, win at Charles Schwab Challenge, T3 at RBC Heritage and now T2 at WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational).
Berger earned a spot in the 2020 U.S. Open as the only player in the top 10 not otherwise exempt
Mickelson, 50, is the first player age 50 or older to finish runner-up on TOUR since Vijay Singh at the 2016 Quicken Loans National and it marked the 37th second-place finish of Mickelson’s career.