MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The normal 10-foot putt in regulation was so crucial and the moment so important that Will Zalatoris can’t remember yelling when he did, “What are they going to say now?”
It took three playoff holes to get the answer on Sunday in the FedEx St. Jude Championship, and it was more along the lines of what they won’t say.
Zalatoris is no longer the best on the PGA Tour without a win.
Already a force in the majors, Zalatoris secured that first victory with clutch putts and smart decisions to beat Sepp Straka and claim the first event of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
“It’s hard to say ‘about time’ when it’s your second year on tour, but about time,” Zalatoris said. “Considering all those tight finishes, that means a lot.”
He could have been referring to his runner-up to Hideki Matsuyama at the Masters last year, the playoff losses at Torrey Pines and Southern Hills in the PGA Championship, and most recently the putt that burned the edge of the cup that left him. prevented from a US Open qualifier.
This one could have gone either way, a playoff that featured three penalty drops in three holes, no player birdie and Zalatoris winning on the par-3 11th with a bogey.
He looked to be struggling from a fairway bunker on the 18th of regulation until Zalatoris made that 10ft for the par at 4 under 66. He was in the trees, near a boundary fence on the 18th on the second playoff hole when he wisely chipped and made a 15-foot putt.
Nothing was wilder than the last hole.
His tee shot hit the bank then bounced off the rocks seven times before coming to rest. Straka followed with a shot that hit the bank, rebounded off the rocks and went into the water. A huge break for Zalatoris? Not really. He didn’t have a realistic shot.
Straka went to the drop zone and his corner went to the back bunker. He played his fourth shot from 4ft as Zalatoris was still considering his options.
“Given where Sepp was and he was 4-for-5, there’s no reason for me to try that shot and flip him straight into the grass and go back into the game. water and all of a sudden I lost the golf tournament,” Zalatoris said.
He went to the drop zone, struck from 7 feet and dropped his raised hands above his head in relief when he landed the winning putt.
Zalatoris enters the world’s top 10 for the first time and takes first place in the FedEx Cup, securing him a reasonable chance of winning the $18 million prize in two weeks.
Straka, already a winner of this year’s Honda Classic, narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie putt for the win on 18 for a 67. He made a 25-foot putt for the win on 18 on the first playoff hole playoffs and had to make a 7-footer the second time around to stay in the game.
“This course is where every shot you hit has you on the edge of your seat,” Straka said. “Add to that the nerves of competing for a tournament, especially for a knockout event and yes, it can get a bit crazy.”
They finished 15-under 265.
Straka, who played bogey-free on the last 13 holes of regulation, moves up to 8th in the standings and is assured of his first trip to the Tour Championship at East Lake.
Lucas Glover walked away with a consolation prize. The former US Open champion entered the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 121 knowing that only the top 70 will advance to the next tournament.
Glover finished with a 66 and tied for third place. Not only was he one of four players who made it into the top 70, but he’s now ranked 34th and has a good chance of making it into the top 30 heading to the Tour Championship to play for the $18 million top prize. dollars.
Adam Scott, Andrew Putnam and Wyndham Clark also entered the top 70, who had reason to believe he had ruined his chances when he played a sequence of four holes in a par 4 and had to save the par the 18 for a 72. He finished at No. 70 by three runs.
Meanwhile, the world No. 1 remains with Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who missed the cut and spent Sunday playing at Pine Valley for the first time.
British Open champion Cameron Smith could have replaced him winning, and he arrived at TPC Southwind two shots off the lead. And then he was four shots back without hitting a shot. Smith received a two-stroke penalty when rules officials realized after review that when Smith took a penalty in the third round, the ball was still touching the red danger line.
They checked with Smith, who confirmed he was hitting the line. He birdied the first hole, birdied just one more, shot 70 and tied the game on the 13th. Smith declined interview requests.