Brooks Koepka strokes gained approach ranks in his 4 major wins:— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) August 2, 2020
2017 US Open: 6th
2018 US Open: 1st
2018 PGA: 9th
2019 PGA: 1st
This week in Memphis: 1st
Justin Thomas' trajectory at the 2020 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational -- which he won by three strokes over Brooks Koepka, Tom Lewis, Phil Mickelson and Daniel Berger -- matches his career path going forward. It might not always have been clear to everyone, but that doesn't mean it should be unexpected.
After shooting 66-70 over the first two days and making approximately zero significant putts, Thomas sat well back of the lead going into the weekend at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee, even though his ball-striking was absolutely magnificent. That's usually a recipe for a weekend charge, even if it's sometimes difficult to sniff out. It was in Thomas' case, and he closed 66-65 to win for the 13th time in his career (more on that in a minute).
The final round was an absolute show from J.T. with stars and superstars tugging and pulling on the lead all day long. Thomas went out in 31 but stalled a bit on the back nine as he played the first five holes in 1 over. Then came the par-4 15th hole where J.T. double-crossed a 5-wood, which bounced off a cart path, past some water, through a tree and somehow came to rest 50 yards from the pin and about 75 yards left of every other drive on the day on that hole. He got up and down for birdie from there.
"Stuff like that doesn't happen more often than not unless you win the tournament," he told Amanda Balionis of CBS Sports after his round.
It happened again (albeit not as dramatically) on No. 16. Thomas' drive flared out to the right, but he punched out and got up and down from 100 yards for another birdie to get to 13 under. Par-par for the three-stroke victory.
Thomas' win is the 13th of his career, which ties him with David Duval and David Toms all-time on the PGA Tour, but the trajectory here matches his path at TPC Southwind. It may be a bit cloudy, and you may not be able to see it at times, but Thomas is the third-youngest player to reach 13 PGA Tour wins in the last six decades. The other two? You may have heard of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
We don't talk about Thomas like this very often, but the numbers here are all-time good. He needs to win more majors, absolutely, but to go 13 wins in your first 152 PGA Tour starts is almost unfathomable (non-G.O.A.T. division). It almost feels like we blinked and J.T. ran past Jordan Spieth (11 wins) with Rory McIlroy (18 wins) and Dustin Johnson (21 wins) now in his sights.
Now Thomas takes that momentum to TPC Harding Park and the PGA Championship next week where he's looking for win No. 14 and major No. 2. He'll do so as the No. 1-ranked player in the world and somebody who somehow, despite all of this, remains underrated. Don't miss it though like you may have missed seeing his weekend charge coming. Thomas is going to emerge 10 or 15 or 20 years from now as one of the best of his (or maybe any) generation to tee it up. Grade: A+
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Brooks Koepka (T2): Honestly, this is probably for the best for Koepka. In each of his last two PGA Championship wins, he's finished in the top five in the prior tournament. Though he limped home on Sunday (with a double bogey on 18 when a birdie would've forced a playoff), his ball-striking has been tremendous for two straight weeks. I've flipped on his trajectory in the span of a week as he's flipped a major switch before the biggest event of the entire season (where he's the two-time defending champion). He finished third from tee to green and first on approach shots this week and is my favorite for TPC Harding Park despite a putter that could use some work. He's once again near the top of the odds board for the PGA Championship, too. Grade: A-
Rickie Fowler (T15): A disappointing Sunday for Fowler, who was extremely solid from tee to green up until the final round. His revised swing didn't hold up under the pressure of a Sunday with a big title in front of him and big names surrounding him. That's not necessarily unexpected, and it's good for him to know what the swing feels like under pressure as early as possible after the swing tweaks. He'll be a fun darkhorse pick for the three upcoming majors over the next four months. Grade: B
Brendon Todd (T15): Tough scene for Todd on Sunday as he finished last in the field in putting and posted a 75 as a result. This is what happens when most of your first three rounds are achieved with the putter and you have stars and superstars trying to run you down on a Sunday. This doesn't take away from what Todd has done so far this season, but it's a testament to the importance of ball-striking for four straight days. Todd did not excel in that area, whereas Thomas and Koepka did. The results show it. Grade: B+
CBS Sports was with you the entire way Sunday updating this story with analysis and highlights from the WGC-St. Jude Invitational. Keep on reading for more, and click here for a detailed leaderboard.