PGA Tour

Rose plays WGC event, eyes defending PGA playoff crown

Justin Rose (Getty Images)
Justin Rose (Getty Images)

Washington - Britain's Justin Rose enters this week's WGC St. Jude Invitational hoping to position himself well for next month's PGA playoffs, where he attempts to become the first back-to-back champion.

Rose enters the 63-player event at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee, coming off a share of 20th at last week's British Open at Royal Portrush in the penultimate event before the season-ending three-week playoff showdown.

Rose, the 2013 US Open winner, ranks 11th in the FedEx Cup playoff standings. Last year he was high enough to share fourth at the season-ending Tour Championship and still win the overall $10 million playoff prize, which jumps to $15 million this year.

"The next few weeks are really important, to be among the leaders and really make a run," Rose said. 

"We're kind of tunneling in on the playoffs. I think I'm in a decent position - 11th is a decent defense so far."

The playoff format has changed this year with major schedule changes and a revamp to make the Tour Championship winner the overall champion.

There are only three playoff events instead of four as in past years. At the Tour Championship, the season points leader begins at 10-under par, the second-ranked player is on 8-under and players start deeper under par the high they rank among the field of 30 in the finale field.

"We all know once the playoffs come around you have to play your best, especially with the changes to the format," Rose said. 

"You really have to position yourself going into East Lake to not have too much of a deficit."

At his current 11th, Rose would start seven strokes behind the leader, who at the moment is reigning PGA Championship winner and four-time major champion Brooks Koepka, just ahead of fellow American Matt Kuchar with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland third.

Rose, 38, plays alongside Kuchar and Jordan Spieth in the first two rounds at Memphis.

Justin Thomas, who won last season's final WGC event at Firestone, is 17th in the points race despite being winless this year as he chases a second playoff crown in three years. He has made only 16 starts this season due to a wrist injury after nine wins in the three prior campaigns.

"Every event is very important over the course of the entire year, but it definitely is now because you're running out (of time)," Thomas said. 

"I really feel like I'm trending in the right direction... I feel like I'm very, very close to winning again."

While top players tee off in Memphis in an event that moved from Akron, Ohio, last season, other players will compete in the PGA Barracuda Championship at Reno, Nevada. The event uses the Modified Stableford scoring system which awards two points for birdies and subtracts one for each bogey.

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