WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational

WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational

WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational
Memphis, Tennessee
Winner: Brooks Koepka

It can’t be often that a golfer wins the tournament, then apologizes for spoiling the show. But that was Brooks Koepka, after leaving Rory McIlroy behind and running off with the World Golf Championships – FedEx St.

Jude Invitational. The stage had been neatly set for a shootout between two of the game’s best. And they were paired together for the final round. “That would have been incredible for the fans if it would have been us going down 18 and somebody having to make a putt on the last,” Koepka said. “And I’m sure that’s what everybody wanted.”

Both trailed through the first two rounds and McIlroy led Koepka by one through the third. Then Koepka let all the air out of the script. While McIlroy was struggling, Koepka went on a quick birdie spree, then played catch-me-if-you-can, and closed with a flawless 65 for a 16-under 264, winning by three over Webb Simpson. McIlroy fought the TPC Southwind for a one-over 71 and tied for fourth, five behind.

A golf writer mentioned that Koepka, who shot Southwind in 68-67-64-65, seemed ill during the week. “It doesn’t affect your play,” Koepka insisted. “I’m not trying to complain. Just get on with it. People go to work sick all the time.”

The Koepka-McIlroy show masked the chase going on at Southwind. It started with Spain’s Jon Rahm, shaking off the weariness from the Open Championship, to take the first-round lead on a 62. In the second round. England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, with a 64, took a two-shot lead almost self-consciously. “No one really wanted to watch me and Patrick [Cantlay] because they were more about watching Rory and Brooks. I’d be the same.” And McIlroy finally broke free in the third. He hit 14 greens and needed only 23 putts. At the 18th, he blasted out of a fairway bunker and capped a birdie outbreak with a 27-footer for a 62 and a one-stroke lead. “I guess
the pressure’s off a little bit,” he said.

ut only until the fourth round. Then the pressure was even greater. The showdown was over before it really started. Koepka, trailing by one at the start, sprinted into the lead while McIlroy was putting too much strain on his putter. He parred the first 11 holes, but gave himself only two reasonable birdie chances, from five feet and 11. With one birdie and two bogeys, he shot 71 and tied for fourth at 269. He declined to speak to the media afterward.

Koepka was racing. He tied McIlroy with a birdie from nine feet at No. 3 and took the lead on a five-footer at No. 5. He birdied the sixth from 20 feet, the 10th from eight and the 17th from 12 for a 65 and the comfortable three-stroke win over Simpson. Simpson eagled the third, shot 64 and was never a threat. “Very happy with how the day went,” he said.

Marc Leishman parred the front nine, then had five birdies and two bogeys coming in and finished third by four shots with a 67. As for Koepka, observers wondered, was he being tongue-in-cheek? “Rory didn’t play the way he wanted to today, but still it’s so much fun to watch him play,” he said. “You know, it’s always nice to squeak out a victory over probably the best player right now.”


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