With a final-round 65, Justin Thomas on Sunday stormed to a three-shot win at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Here’s how Thomas snatched the world No. 1 ranking away from Jon Rahm:
Leaderboard: Justin Thomas (-13), Daniel Berger (-10), Tom Lewis (-10), Phil Mickelson (-10), Brooks Koepka (-10)
What it means: This is Thomas 13th PGA Tour win and third this season, following victories at the CJ Cup in South Korea and the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Thomas looked as though he was going to pick up title No. 13 just three weeks ago at the Workday Charity Open, before he blew a three-shot lead with three holes to play and eventually lost a playoff to Collin Morikawa. He bounced back from that disappointment in short order to claim his second World Golf Championship after he won this event at its former home – Firestone CC in Akron, Ohio – in 2018. And he did so with the help of Jim “Bones” Mackay, who was filling in for Thomas’ regular caddie, Jimmy Johnson. Bones picked up his latest PGA Tour win while in the same pairing with his old boss and Thomas’ final-round playing competitor: Phil Mickelson. With the win, Thomas moves to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings and becomes the favorite to win this season’s Player of the Year award. At 27 years old, he is the third-youngest player in the last 60 years to reach 13 Tour wins, behind only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Most importantly, he moves to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the second time in his career, ending Rahm’s maiden run at just two weeks.
How it happened: Four back to start the final round, Thomas made four birdies on his front nine to make the turn in 31. Following a bogey at 12, Thomas emerged from a crowded pack and won the tournament with a pair of, frankly, squirrelly birdies down the stretch. At 15, Thomas pulled his tee shot left of the hazard, skipped his ball off a cart path and through a tree to put himself in perfect position for an up-and-down 3:
And at 16, he sailed his drive well to the right, laid up back into the fairway and stuffed a wedge to 3 feet.
That birdie combined with a Koepka bogey at 16 put Thomas up two with two to play, and a par-par finish was good enough for a three-shot win.
Best of the rest: Defending champion Koepka suddenly appears to be trending ahead of another title defense next week – at the PGA Championship. One down with one to play following a 40-foot birdie make at 17, Koepka tried to cut the corner at the 72nd hole but found the water, ending his chances. A double bogey at 18 actually cost him a solo-second finish and dropped him into a four-way tie. Nonetheless, the runner-up was Koepka’s best result since his win last year at TPC Southwind, and it ensures that he will indeed qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs, moving him from 155th to 66th in the season-long standings.
Biggest disappointment: The final pairing of Brendon Todd and Ben An. For Todd, it was the second time he’s failed to close a 54-hole lead since the restart. He signed for a Sunday 75 at the Travelers that left him T-11, and at the WGC it was a closing 75 that left him T-15. He played both rounds without a birdie. As for An, his 73 left him tied for 12th.
Performance of the weekend: Tom Lewis, a two-time winner on the European Tour and the victor at last year’s Korn Ferry Tour Championship, went 61-66 over the weekend, carding 16 birdies over his final 36 holes.
Shot of the day: This massive flop from Mickelson at 13:
Quote of the day: “It feels like it’s the only way to play the hole. But no, I got unbelievably lucky. That’s the kind of stuff that happens when you win.” — Thomas on his birdie at 15