Justin Thomas wants to make his second stint as No. 1 in the world last longer than the first time around.
“I hope so,” Thomas said Sunday after winning the FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis, Tenn., to take the 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, sealing the World Golf Championship victory on the par-5 16th. Thomas took the lead for good with his second straight birdie, while Koepka bogeyed the hole.
Koepka pulled within a stroke with a 39-footer for birdie on No. 17. But Koepka put his tee shot into the water along the 18th fairway on his way to double bogey, allowing Thomas to finish up an easy par putt for what wound up a three-stroke victory.
Thomas closed with a 5-under-par 66 to finish at 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 PGA Tour wins, trailing only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a good career so far, but I plan on playing out here for a long time and have a lot of things that I still want to accomplish,” Thomas said. “And every milestone and steppingstone is hopefully something that I can learn from and something that will help me even more in the long run.”
One sign of Thomas’s growth was this was the fifth time he rallied to win, and he matched his biggest comeback after starting the day four strokes back of third-round leader Brendon Todd. Thomas has three wins this season, two since the start of the year.
The last time Thomas was No. 1, he spent four weeks at the top of the ranking. He will supplant Jon Rahm, who became No. 1 after winning at Memorial two weeks ago and tied for 52nd this week.
Koepka will go to TPC Harding Park in San Francisco looking to defend his PGA championship title, and he said he’s feeling good about how he’s playing. He finished with a 69 and tied for second with Phil Mickelson (67), Daniel Berger (65) and Tom Lewis (66).
“I thought I hit a good chip on 16,” Koepka said. “I don’t know what it did. Then another minute I thought it was in for another second. So to make bogey there was disappointing. Obviously drained a big one on 17, and then you’re down one. You’ve got to take an aggressive line on 18, so it is what it is.”
Thomas had Jim “Bones” Mackay on his bag, playing in the same group with Mickelson for the first time since Mickelson split with his longtime caddie. Mackay was a late fill-in for Thomas’s usual caddie, Jimmy Johnson.
“I feel like he knows enough about my game to where he can contribute and be a help, and he was,” Thomas said about Mackay.
Thomas made up the deficit with four birdies on the front nine and just missed another birdie chance on No. 8. His 20-footer on No. 9 tied Todd at 12 under.
Todd, whose putting had carried him through the first three rounds, three-putted for bogey from 23 feet on the par-3 eighth, leaving Thomas alone atop the leaderboard.
LPGA — Danielle Kang played the brand of steady golf that wins on tough golf courses, closing with a 2-under 70 at Inverness Club and winning the LPGA Drive On Championship in Toledo, Ohio, the first LPGA Tour event in more than five months.
Kang and Celine Boutier of France turned the final hour into a terrific duel, and they were tied when Kang made her lone bogey on the par-5 13th with a poor chip from the thick collar.
It was Boutier who blinked last. She missed a short par putt on the 15th hole to fall one shot behind, and then stuffed her approach to 4 feet below the hole on the 18th. Instead of a playoff, however, Boutier made a tentative stroke on a tricky putt and the ball caught the left edge of the cup and spun away.
European — Sam Horsfield shot a final round 4-under 68 to win the Hero Open in Birmingham, England, by one stroke.
The 23-year-old Englishman clinched his first European Tour title with an 18-under 270 total, holding off second-place Thomas Detry, whose 6-under 66 had briefly given him a share of the lead.
Detry, a 27-year-old Belgian, had nine birdies and three bogeys in his final round at the Forest of Arden Marriott Hotel and Country Club.
Overnight leader Horsfield birdied the 17th hole to go ahead of Detry, who was already in the clubhouse, and secured victory with par at the 18th. His victory was powered by a 9-under 63 on Friday.
Champions — Jim Furyk turned 50 when golf was shut down and made the most of it when the PGA Tour Champions returned, closing with a 4-under 68 to win the Ally Challenge in Grand Blanc, Mich., when Brett Quigley bogeyed his last two holes.
Korn Ferry — Seth Reeves won the Pinnacle Bank Championship in Omaha, Neb., for his first Korn Ferry Tour title, making a late eagle and birdie for a one-stroke victory over five players.