MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The 10-foot par putt in the rule was so crucial and the moment so important that Will Zlatoris doesn’t recall screaming as he made it, “What are they going to say now?”
It took three playoff holes to get the answer in Sunday’s FedEx St. Jude Championship, and it was more like what they won’t say.
Without a win, Zulatoris is no longer the best on the PGA Tour.
Already a major fixture, Zatoris pulled out that first win using clutch putts and smart decisions to beat Sepp Straka and win the inaugural FedEx Cup playoff event.
“It’s hard to say it’s time when it’s your second year on the road, but it’s time,” Zalatoris said. “Considering all these close results, that means a lot.”
He may have been referring to his runner-up finish against Hideki Matsuyama in last year’s Masters, or the playoff losses at Torrey Pines and Southern Hills in the PGA Championship, or most recently the putt that burned the rim of the cup that stopped him from getting one US Open Playoff.
This game could have ended either way, a three-hole, three-penalty playoff in which no player birdied and Zalatoris won on a par-3 11 with a bogey.
From a fairway bunker on the 18th in regulation, Zlatoris seemed in trouble until he made that 10-foot par on a 4-under-66. He was in the trees near a perimeter fence on the 18th at the second playoff hole when he wisely broke out and made a 15-foot par putt.
Nothing was wilder than the last hole.
His tee shot hit the bank and then hit the rocks seven times before coming to rest. Straka followed up with a shot that also hit the bank, taking a ricochet off the rocks and going into the water. A big break for Zatoris? Not really. He didn’t have a realistic shot.
Straka went to the drop zone and his wedge landed in the back bunker. He played his fourth shot from 4 feet while Zatoris was still considering his options.
“Considering where Sepp was and he was 4ft for 5, there’s no reason for me to try that shot and put it straight down the grass and go back in the water and all of a sudden I lost the golf tournament.” Said Zalatoris.
He went to the drop zone, hit 7 feet and dropped his raised hands over his head in relief as he made the winning putt.
Zalatoris makes the top 10 in the world for the first time and takes first place in the FedEx Cup, giving it a reasonable shot at the $18 million two-week prize.
Straka, already a winner at that year’s Honda Classic, narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie putt for the win on the 18th for a 67. He had a 25-foot putt to win on the 18th at the first playoff hole and had a 7-foot to make the second time to stay in the game.
“On this course, you’re on the edge of your seat with every shot you hit,” Straka said. “Add to that the nerves of fighting for a tournament, especially a playoff event, and yes, it can get a little crazy.”
They finished at 15-under 265.
Straka, who went without a bogey for the last 13 holes of the regulations, moves up to 8th overall and secures his first trip to the Tour Championship at East Lake.
Lucas Glover got away with a consolation prize. The former US Open champion entered the FedEx Cup playoffs in 121st place, knowing only the top 70 would advance to the next tournament.
Glover closed on a 66 and tied in third place. Not only was he among the four players to make the top 70, he’s now ranked 34th and has a good chance of being in the top 30 going to the Tour Championship for the first prize of US$18 million – Dollars to play.
Also moving into the top 70 were Adam Scott, Andrew Putnam and Wyndham Clark, who had reason to believe he had blown his chances when he played a four-hole stretch at 4-over par and missed on par 18 had to save for a 72. Clark finished in 70th with three points.
Meanwhile, the world No. 1 stays with Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who missed the cut and spent Sunday playing Pine Valley for the first time.
British Open winner Cameron Smith could have replaced Scheffler with a win and came two shots clear at TPC Southwind. And then Smith was four shots behind without hitting a shot. Smith received a two-shot penalty when rules officials, on review, found that when he conceded a penalty kick in the third round, the ball was still touching the danger red line.
They checked with Smith, who confirmed it touched the line. He screwed the first hole, made just one more birdie, shot 70, and finished 13th. Smith declined interview requests.
https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/34400582/will-zalatoris-makes-most-three-hole-playoff-win-fedex-st-jude-championship-dramatic-fashion Will Zalatoris makes most of three-hole playoff to win FedEx St. Jude Championship in dramatic fashion