Justin Thomas Wins PGA Championship in Dramatic Finish
HISTORY will record that Justin Thomas won his second PGA Championship at Southern Hills, overcoming a seven-shot deficit to beat Will Zalatoris in a play-off.
But this was the major that should have been won by Chilean Mito Pereira. He had never won on the PGA Tour but looked set to changed all that in the best possible way as he stood on the final tee with a one-shot lead. He had battled all day, having begun the final round with a three-shot lead. And he looked on in horror as his final tee shot finished up in a creek. It cost him a double-bogey and, having led all day, he finished on four under par, one shot behind Thomas and Zalatrois.
England's Matt Fitzpatrick (73) and Tommy Fleetwood (67) ended three under. Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, who led the tournament after a five-under-par 65 on the opening day, closed with a 68 to finish eighth at two under in Oklahoma. Yet again it was a case of what might have been for a golfer looking to win his first major since 2014.
We had also seen Tiger Woods withdraw after a miserable third round of 79 as he continued to struggle to recover from the dreadful leg injuries suffered in a car crash last year.
With Perreira and Zalatoris vying for the title it had looked like we were about to see a changing of the guard.
On a difficult day for scoring, Thomas was one over after six holes but had four birdies in his final 10 holes to fire his way to the top of the leaderboard, with Zalatoris hanging on to also finish on five under and capitalise on Pereira's collapse..
But it was Thomas who prevailed in the three-hole playoff, making a decisive birdie on the 17th to claim his second major after also winning this event in 2017.
"It was a bizarre day," said Thomas, who equalled John Mahaffey's record of coming from seven behind to win the 1978 PGA title, also in a play-off, at Oakmont.
"Bones [Thomas' caddie] did an unbelievable job of just keeping me in the moment. We just tried to play the golf course for what it is..
"It's funny, I was asked earlier in the week about what lead is safe, and I said, ‘No lead'. This place is so tough. But if you hit the fairways you can make birdies and I stayed so patient, I just couldn't believe I found myself in a play-off."
A birdie putt that would have given Pereira a two-shot lead going down the last pulled up a couple of inches short before his drive at the 18th found water.
"I don't know what happened. I thought I hit it really good," the 27-year-old said of his last tee shot. "On Monday, I just wanted to make the cut. On Sunday, I just wanted to win."
As his ball was finding the water, Zalatoris was up ahead on the 18th green rolling in a par putt to match Thomas on five under.
Pereira only graduated from the Korn Ferry Tour last summer and his best finish this year was a share of 13th at last month's Texas Open, but he started the day with a three-stroke lead over Fitzpatrick on just his second major start.
Zalatoris, still looking for his maiden victory but with five top-10s in eight major starts, had wiped that lead by the time he reached the sixth tee, only to bogey the par-three. A wild tee shot led to a 15-minute discussion with a rules official over where to drop his ball and he eventually made a superb up-and-down from a cart path.
From there it became a grind for the leaders, with Pereira just about keeping his nose in front despite Cameron Young briefly joining the lead and Thomas climbing the leaderboard.
That was until the par-four 18th, where Pereira's unravelling led to a six that saw him miss out on the play-off, leaving Zalatoris and Thomas to scrap it out over three holes.
Both birdied the par-five 13th before Thomas drove the green at the 302-yard 17th and two-putted for a birdie that Zalatoris could not match, before holding his nerve with a par on the 18th to clinch his second Wanamaker Trophy.
"I've been knocking on the door in these majors for a little while and one's going to come soon," said Zalatoris. "To come up one short, it stings, but I know we're going to get one soon."
Fitzpatrick began the day three adrift and with high hopes. But he bogeyed the first hole, birdied the fourth and then dropped further shots at the sixth, 10th and 11th holes.
With those ahead of him struggling, Fitzpatrick birdied the 15h, only for another dropped shot at the 17th to end his chances. He ended up signing for a 73.
"It's tough to take,” he said. "I just didn't hit very well, wasn't a good day. It's disappointing knowing that you're two shots outside of a play-off and you feel like you've got the game to make the play-off and go on to win.
"I shoot level par and I win it outright. If someone had said that before the round, I'd have fully prepared myself to do that. You know your target and get it around. It wasn't the day that I wanted and it is what it is unfortunately."
Be part of the action with a selection of unique golf tournament experiences, from playing in a pro-am with the stars to watching the action at golf’s most illustrious events. Whether it’s the Masters or The Open, The Ryder Cup or WM Phoenix Open, build your own bespoke package with the experts at Golfbreaks.com.
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)
comments powered by Disqus