MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Justin Thomas wants to make his second step as No. 1 in the world longer than the first time.
“I hope so,” Thomas said Sunday after winning the FedEx St. Jude Invitational to take No. 1 spot for the first time since June 2018. “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 dueled defending champion Brooks Koepka down the final holes and sealed the victory at the World Cup in golf on par-5 16th. Thomas took the lead for good with his second straight birdie, while Koepka hit the hole.
Koepka pulled into a stroke with a 39-foot birdie at No. 17. But Koepka put his tee shot into the water along the 1
Thomas closed with a 5 under 66 to finish 13 under 267 and take the $ 10.5 million winner’s check for his 13th PGA Tour title. At 27, he became the third youngest player since 1960 to reach 13 wins on the PGA Tour, beating only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have a good career so far, but I plan to play out here for a long time and have many things I still want to accomplish,” said Thomas. “And every milestone and step is hopefully something I can learn from and something that will help me even more in the long run.”
A sign of Thomas’ growth was that it was the fifth time he gathered to win, and he matched his biggest comeback after starting the day four strokes back by third-round leader Brendon Todd. Thomas has three victories this season, two since the beginning of the year.
Last time Thomas was No. 1, he spent four weeks at the top of the rankings. He will replace Jon Rahm, who finished No. 1 after winning at Memorial two weeks ago and tied for 52 this week.
Koepka comes to TPC Harding Park in San Francisco and wants to defend his PGA Championship title, and he said he feels good about how he plays. He finished with a 69 and tied for second place with Phil Mickelson (67), Daniel Berger (65) and Tom Lewis (66).
“I thought I hit a good chip at 16,” Koepka said. “I do not know what it did. Then one minute I thought it was for another second. So to do bogey it was disappointing. Apparently emptied a big one at 17, and then you are down one. You have to take an aggressive line of 18, so that’s what it is. “
Thomas had Jim “Bones” Mackay on his bag and played in the same group with Mickelson for the first time since Mickelson shared with his longtime caddy. Mackay was a late filler for Thomas’ regular caddy, Jimmy Johnson.
“I feel like he knows enough about my game where he can contribute and be a help, and that was him,” Thomas said of Mackay.
Thomas made up the deficit with four birdies on the top nine and just missed a new birdie chance at No. 8. His 20-foot at No. 9 tied Todd at 12 under.
Todd, whose placement had carried him through the first three innings, three putts for bogey from 23 feet on the par-3 eighth, left Thomas alone on the top spot.
Thomas put his second on par-4 12 in a green bunker near the back edge and chopped it out to rough. He chipped out of a awkward stance to save the bogey.
It created a five-way tie of 11 under with Koepka, Berger, Lewis and Todd.
Koepka took the lead for himself on par-4 13th. He hit his approach from 13 yards to 10 feet off the pin and Koepka dropped the putt for his third birdie in the round to go to 12 under.
After hitting his tee shot 321 yards to the rough 51 yards short from the hole at No. 15, Thomas struck to 6 feet for a birdie, tying Koepka at 12 under with three to play. Thomas found the rough at the far right of the lane on par-5 16th and then hit his third from the left rough 65 yards to 3 feet for his second straight birdie.
Koepka, in the group behind Thomas, tried to answer 42 meters from the hole. His shot landed near the hole only to continue rolling to the back of the green. Koepka settled two-putt from 8 feet for bogey.
After finishing No. 18, Thomas made sure to avoid any danger before Koepka’s last birdie.
“I saw that I had a two-shot lead, hence the reason I hit it to the right of the universe,” Thomas said of a tee shot that went right in the way of the wagon. “It did not work, I promise you“.
divots: Berger qualified for the US Open with his fifth top-10 goal to go with his victory at the Colonial in June.