Thomas claims WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational crown and number one ranking

By Sports Desk August 02, 2020

Justin Thomas held off a threat from defending champion Brooks Koepka to win the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and claim the number one ranking.

Thomas carded a five-under-par 65 in Sunday's final round to soar to the top of the leaderboard and he stayed there for his third title of the season – the most on the PGA Tour.

Former world number one and 2018 champion Thomas was four shots off the pace when he teed off on day four at TPC Southwind, where Brendon Todd was the player to beat overnight in Memphis, Tennessee.

But Todd could only manage a fourth-round 75 and a share of 15th as Thomas – fuelled by a flawless front nine – used six birdies and a solitary bogey to clinch his 13th career crown at 13 under.

The result means Jon Rahm's brief stint atop the world golf rankings is over, with the Spaniard (66) replaced by Thomas after languishing in a tie for 52nd ahead of the US PGA Championship, which starts in San Francisco on Thursday.

Koepka – eyeing back-to-back successes at the tournament – was within one stroke of the lead but the four-time major champion double-bogeyed the last to sign for a 69, having also bogeyed the 16th.

The US PGA Championship holder ended the World Golf Championships event tied for second alongside Phil Mickelson (67), Daniel Berger (65) and Tom Lewis (66).

Xander Schauffele (66), Jason Day (67), Shane Lowry (67), Chez Reavie (68), Louis Oosthuizen (68) and Matt Fitzpatrick (68) finished four strokes behind Thomas, while Dustin Johnson (67), Webb Simpson (68) and Byeong Hun An (73) were a shut further back.

It was another tough outing for Jordan Spieth – the three-time major winner still searching for his first top-10 performance since the Charles Schwab Challenge.

A final-round 71, consisting of two double bogeys, two bogeys and five birdies, saw Spieth slide to four under and nine strokes adrift.

Another former world number one, Rory McIlroy, did not fare much better after finishing tied for 47th following his three-under-par 67.

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    Hagy made 10 birdies and two bogeys during his first round on the PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course in California.

    The American sits a shot clear of Byeong Hun An, who fired a 65 on the same course.

    Hagy is in the lead through 18 holes for the second time in his PGA Tour career and first since the 2017 Canadian Open.

    Kim Si-woo produced the best round of players who started on the PGA West Stadium Course, his 66 – which featured an eagle at the fifth hole – seeing him sit tie for third.

    Martin Laird and Max Homa are alongside Kim, two shots adrift of Hagy.

    A group of nine players opened with 67s, including Charl Schwartzel and Alex Noren.

    Defending champion Andrew Landry, meanwhile, carded a two-under 70 on the Stadium Course to be back in a tie for 61st.

  • McIlroy hits the front as under-fire Thomas toils after Abu Dhabi fog delay McIlroy hits the front as under-fire Thomas toils after Abu Dhabi fog delay

    Rory McIlroy put his lowest-scoring round at the Abu Dhabi Championship down to precision putting as the four-time major winner shot a first-round 64.

    The Northern Irishman, paired with the under-fire Justin Thomas, had to be patient as play was delayed amid fog but he made up for lost time in eye-catching fashion.

    McIlroy closed day one on eight under, putting the 31-year-old a shot clear of Ryder Cup team-mate Tyrrell Hatton, with Fabrizio Zanotti a stroke further back.

    The delay meant not everyone managed to complete 18 holes, but McIlroy was pleased to be sitting pretty in the clubhouse. 

    "A lot of it was very good. I felt like I drove the ball well for the most part. Distance control was really good," McIlroy said of a display which saw him sink four birdies apiece on the front and back nine.

    "I think I started off really well and hit a lot of nice iron shots, but honestly it was probably the best I've putted these greens in Abu Dhabi probably in my whole career.

    "I've shot some really good scores here but I held some really good ones today.

    "And I've always struggled to read them here, but I sort of got my eye in early and kept it going."

    After becoming embroiled in recent controversy for his use of a homophobic slur, McIlroy's playing partner Thomas found himself well off the pace on one over.

    The American was dropped by sponsor Ralph Lauren following the incident, in which the world number three was heard making an offensive comment by a television microphone when playing at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii earlier this month.

    Thomas subsequently apologised for his "inexcusable" use of the slur.

    Reigning champion Lee Westwood carded a 69, putting him in a big group on three under, with English compatriot Justin Rose for company, though the Olympic champion managed only 11 holes.

  • Thomas addresses ending of Ralph Lauren partnership: 'Embarrassing' use of slur is 'not me' Thomas addresses ending of Ralph Lauren partnership: 'Embarrassing' use of slur is 'not me'

    Justin Thomas insists his "embarrassing" and "humiliating" use of a homophobic slur is "not me" and reflected on Ralph Lauren's decision to stop working with him as a result of the incident.

    World number three Thomas was heard making the offensive comment by a television microphone when playing at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii earlier this month.

    Afterwards, Thomas apologised for his "inexcusable" use of the slur and he again addressed the issue when previewing the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour this weekend. 

    "It's humiliating. It's embarrassing. It's not me. It's not a word that I use, but for some reason, it was in there," Thomas said. 

    "And that's what I'm trying to figure out as to why it was in there, and just like I said, it's going to be a part of this process and training program or whatever I need to do, not only to prove to myself but prove to my sponsors and prove to those people that don't know who I am that that is indeed not the person I am."

    Thomas will be playing without shirt branding in Abu Dhabi after Ralph Lauren opted to end its partnership with the 27-year-old.

    Asked about the company's decision, Thomas replied: "I think disappointed is the wrong word. 

    "Obviously I was upset. But at the end of the day, they have that right. They had to make the decision that they had to make. I spoke with them along with all my sponsors. 

    "Although I apologised, it's like it was then; it's an opportunity for me to grow and I felt like it was something we could have done together and gone through that process. 

    "They just felt like they needed to move on. That's exactly what I'm doing, as well. It was a great run that we had and a great partnership, but you know, things will work out on the best."

    Thomas confirmed conversations have been held with his other sponsors, adding: "I've had great communication with all of them. 

    "It was obviously not calls or e-mails I was hoping or planning to make but I needed to because I have some great long-lasting partnerships with all my sponsors. They know that's not the person that I am.

    "They know that's not how I act and although they are far from brushing it to the side just like I am, they understand that this is an opportunity for me to educate myself, grow, become a better person, and just like they hope, I know that I'll become a better man and a better person because of it, and they are going to kind of help me along that process."

    Thomas earned the backing of Rory McIlroy, who is confident his on-course rival will learn from his error in judgement.

    "I think he's already responded really, really well," the four-time major winner said. 

    "I think he realised he made a big mistake as soon as it was brought to him and he completely owned up to it. He said he messed up; he's going to try to be better. 

    "And you know, Justin is true to his word. He will be. If anything, it will probably just make him a better person than he already is, which is hard because he's already a great guy."

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