Friday, September 18, 2020

Late birdies push Justin Thomas past Brooks Koepka to win WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational

There were eight different players within a single shot of the lead midway through the final round at TPC Southwind on Sunday afternoon.

Yet thanks to a wild birdie save, followed by a second birdie on the following hole, Justin Thomas pushed past Brooks Koepka to claim the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational title — his third of the season.

His win lifted him to the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings, too, overtaking Jon Rahm.

“[This win] means a lot, especially with how I felt like I did it,” Thomas said on CBS. “In the past I’ve struggled coming from behind … I was able to hold on and get it done today.”

Thomas’ late back-to-back birdies

Thomas first grabbed the lead on No. 15, somehow saving birdie after his tee shot landed in the rough well away from the landing area on the wrong side of the water. Thomas then pitched his approach shot to just a few feet and expertly sank the birdie putt, securing a share of the lead.

“It feels like it’s the only way to play the hole,” he said on CBS. “I got unbelievably lucky. But that’s the stuff that happens when you win. It really is. Somehow that kind of calmed me down … Stuff like that doesn’t happen, more often than not, unless you win the tournament.”

The 27-year-old backed it up on the very next hole, too, sticking his approach shot right next to the cup for his second consecutive birdie.

Koepka made bogey on No. 16 himself, which gave Thomas a two-shot lead with two holes to go. While the defending champion made birdie on No. 17 to keep his title hopes alive, it was too late.

Koepka’s drive on No. 18 went into the water, and Thomas nearly chipped in for birdie on the final hole before tapping in for par to seal the deal.

Thomas posted a 5-under 65 on Sunday, bringing him to 13-under on the week. Koepka ended up making double-bogey on the final hole, dropping him to 10-under on the week and into a four-way tie for second place with Daniel Berger, Tom Lewis and Phil Mickelson.

Thomas has been on a roll since play resumed in June after the COVID-19 hiatus. He missed the cut just once in five events, finished T8 at the RBC Heritage and then came in second at the Workday Charity Open. Sunday’s win marked the 13th of his career.

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