Will Zalatoris has ended his PGA Tour title drought in the most dramatic of circumstances after needing three playoff holes to seal victory in the St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind.
The American had the most money and the best world ranking of anyone without a PGA Tour victory, before his unbelievable playoff victory over Austria's Sepp Straka in Memphis.
Heartache in two previous playoff losses this year — one in a major — turned into relief for Zalatoris as he clinched the most unlikely of victories.
Zalatoris' chances appeared to have gone up in smoke on the third playoff hole when he teed off first and found the rocks that frame the par-3 11th green.
The 25-year-old watched his tee shot hit the bank and then the rocks, with the ball teetering on the edge of going into the water as it bounced seven times on the rock wall before coming to rest next to the lip of grass.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 14, 2022
All Straka needed to do was avoid the water and victory was all but assured, however, the Austrian sent his tee shot bouncing off the bank and into the drip.
Straka went to the drop zone but put his next effort into a bunker off the back of the green, as Zalatoris decided what to do about his ball.
Following a lengthy discussion with his caddie, Zalatoris conceded that he didn't have a shot, so he went to the drop zone and hit his wedge within a few metres of the pin.
Zalatoris raised his arms in triumph after dropping the putt to win, with viewers gobsmacked by the drama that had unfolded in Memphis.
— FanDuel Sportsbook (@FDSportsbook) August 14, 2022
Will Zalatoris' tee shot took SIX bounces on the rocks before it settled. Absolutely insane!
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) August 14, 2022
Golf drama is the best drama. What a rollercoaster. Some absolutely phenomenal shots, horrible shots, big decisions and ultimately clutch putts. Holy moly. Will Zalatoris has all the tools to be a golf SUPER star.
— Riggs (@RiggsBarstool) August 14, 2022
Cannot even begin to understand what kind of Voodoo magic kept that Will Zalatoris ball out of the water.
— Ben Portnoy (@bportnoy15) August 14, 2022
WHAT IS GOING ON AT TPC SOUTHWIND?!
The Zalatoris tee shot bounces on the rocks, but stays up 🪨
The Straka tee shot bounces on the rocks, but goes in the water 💦 pic.twitter.com/5BTMG72KRp
— GolfBet (@GolfBet) August 14, 2022
Well done Will Zalatoris. About time & what drama.
— Irish Golf Course Guide (@golfcourseire) August 14, 2022
— Alex Monaco (@Alex__Monaco) August 14, 2022
“To see that decision pay off was pretty cool,” Zalatoris said of his call to go back to the drop zone instead of trying to play out from the crazy green-side lie.
Zalatoris moves into the top 10 in the world for the first time and takes the No. 1 spot in the FedEx Cup, assuring him a reasonable shot at the $18 million prize in two weeks.
He was clutch even if he was scrambling. It stated with a 10-foot par save on the 18th in regulation for a 4-under 66 to post at 15-under 265.
Straka, already a winner this year in the Honda Classic, narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie putt for the win on the 18th for a 67.
Both made par on the 18th on the first extra hole. Then, as Straka said after the loss, “It can get a little crazy” on a course like, and a closing hole like No. 18.
Cameron Smith rocked by two-shot penalty ruling
Cameron Smith's bid to become world No.1 ended in heartbreak as he was handed a two-shot penalty from a third round infringement, just before the final round got underway.
Needing to win to supplant Scottie Scheffler from the top of the rankings, Smith never recovered after receiving the retrospective two-stroke penalty.
Smith ultimately finished in a tie for 13th at nine under par, six strokes behind Zalatoris.
Smith's hopes were all but scuppered even before he teed off on Sunday, after officials docked him two strokes for playing a ball from the wrong place on the fourth hole in round three.
After finding the water on the par-three, Australia's world No.2 took a drop and incorrectly played his third shot with his ball touching a hazard line.
Officials handed Smith the penalty after the recently crowned British Open champion admitted to being unaware he wasn't allowed to play the ball with it touching the red line.
Instead of starting Sunday two shots behind JJ Spaun, Smith began four strokes back at nine under in a tie for 14th.
He never looked like bridging the gap as Zalatoris shot to the top of the FedExCup standings with his first PGA Tour victory. Smith slipped from second to fourth ahead of this week's BMW Championship.
Countryman Adam Scott carded a fine final-round four-under 66 to finish tied fifth at 11 under and vault from 77th to 45th on the FedExCup leaderboard to seal his place in the second playoff event.
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