MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Defending champion Justin Thomas is trying to break out of a bit of a slump at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Xander Schauffele is trying to build on his victory Sunday in the Tokyo Olympics.
Thomas, ranked fifth in the world, won the the World Golf Championship event last year at TPC Southwind by three strokes over Phil Mickelson, 2019 winner Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger and Tom Lewis. Since winning The Players Championship in mid-March at TPC Sawgrass, Thomas has only three top-25 finishes in 10 events.
“Other than one week, really one weekend, the results haven’t been there,” said Thomas, also the 2018 winner. “It’s been the hardest I’ve had to work and the most I’ve struggled, but I’m just trying to get out of that. I feel like I’ve been a lot closer this month or so to playing some really, really good golf.”
He closed with a 65 on Sunday to tie for 22nd in Tokyo.
“So in terms of specific goals, I’m just trying to play some better golf and get more consistent and get myself in contention to win tournaments,” Thomas said. “Hopefully, this week will be a good example of trying to get myself in that spot.”
The fourth-ranked Schauffele made the 12-hour trip from Japan to Memphis on Tuesday and said winning a gold medal for the United States has been “feeding his energy” as before the start of play Thursday.
Schauffele had been playing well entering the Olympics. He tied for seventh at the U.S. Open. Earlier, he tied for third at the Masters.
“You want to win each and every week and now that I finally got the taste of winning and being able to win from up front, that’s why I think all of us compete,” Schauffele said. “That’s the rush we really chase.”
Top-ranked Jon Rahm, forced to miss the Olympics because of a positive COVID-19 test, is the only player in the top 10 not in the 66-player field.
The PGA Tour announced Tuesday that the tournament will open the FedEx Cup Playoffs, starting next August. As for this year, Memphis begins a stretch of four tournaments leading into the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
“Even if I win these last four events, it won’t be a great season to me because I didn’t win a major,” Thomas said. “It will be a really, really good season, but it’s hard to be great if you don’t win a major.”
Second-ranked Dustin Johnson won at the course in 2016.
“It’s a golf course that I really enjoy playing,” Johnson said. “I’ve had a lot of success here, so yeah, I always love coming back here and playing. Obviously, now it’s a WGC, but I played even before that. It’s a place where I’ve got a lot of good memories. I feel like the course sets up well for me. It’s a good track. You’ve got to hit a lot of good golf shots if you want to play well.”
Seventh-ranked Bryson DeChambeau is back after missing the Olympics because of a positive test.