Justin Thomas regained the No. 1 spot in the world rankings with his come-from-behind victory at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis. He finished at 13-under, good enough for a three stroke win over a group of four players that included defending champion Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson.
“It was a grind today,” Thomas said. “It was a place where I was four back, but I didn’t have too many people in front of me. I just kind of kept my head down, I tried not to look at leaderboards and really just played my own game.”
Thomas’ win at TPC Southwind was his third of this PGA TOUR season following the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges and the Sentry Tournament of Champions. It was also the 13th of his career, making him the third youngest to reach 13 wins behind only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus and just ahead of Rory McIlroy.
Thomas takes over as No. 1 following Jon Rahm’s two weeks in the top spot after he won the Memorial. A big factor in Thomas winning occurred on No. 15 when he got a very fortunate bounce off his 321-yard drive that saw his ball end up on the left of the water with a clear path to the green. His 51-yard chip landed six feet from the pin where he would convert on the birdie putt.
“There’s plenty of things that happen over the course of a long career,” Thomas said of his break on the 15th hole. “I got some pretty good ones at the PGA when I won, but kind of like I said, that’s the stuff that happens when you win. Very rarely does stuff like that happen and you don’t win. Yeah, I’m just glad it did, I know that.”
Koepka had a rollercoaster afternoon that saw him hold the lead at one point and pull within one shot of Thomas after draining a 39-foot birdie on No. 17. Coming off the huge birdie, Koepka proceeded to pull his drive into the water on No. 18, essentially ending his hopes while Thomas was putting out ahead of him.
While he did not successfully defend his title in Memphis, Koepka did have his best showing since the PGA TOUR’s return at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth. He is also the defending champion next week at the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
“I feel good. I feel like my game’s right there,” Koepka said. “This is where we wanted to be, peaking for the PGA. I feel like my game’s right there, everything’s solid. I hit a lot of good putts today, just didn’t go in. Yeah, I mean, I’m pleased with it.”
Brendon Todd began the final round with the lead, but a Sunday 75 dropped the 2014 AT&T Byron Nelson champion to a tie for 15th.
Rory McIlroy could have regained the No. 1 ranking with a win, but 73s in the first and third rounds put him so far back that even a final round 67 only got him to a tie for 47th.
— Jim Furyk won his PGA TOUR Champions debut at the Ally Challenge at Warwick Hills, the site of the former PGA TOUR event known as the Buick Open. Furyk won that event in 2003.
“Just excited to be able to come out here first week and play so well and get a win,” Furyk said “It’s an honor. A lot of good players in the field. I enjoy coming back to Warwick Hills, a place that I had a lot of success in my career, a golf course that I really enjoy.”
Furyk, who turned 50 during the PGA TOUR shut down, became the first player since Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2014 to win in his first start on the PGA TOUR Champions.
This was the first PGA TOUR Champions event after a five-month break due to COVID-19.