Zalatoris Beats Straka in Wild Playoff to Win FedEx St. Jude Championship

Will Zalatoris finally claimed his first PGA Tour victory, even though he needed three playoff holes to do it.

Zalatoris, who lost playoffs in the PGA Championship and Farmers Insurance Open earlier this season, made a bogey on the fourth extra hole that was good enough to beat Sepp Straka of Austria in the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the opening event of the playoffs, at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn.

Not only did Zalatoris, who was born in San Francisco, win but he supplanted top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, who missed the cut, atop the FedEx Cup point standings heading in the second post-season event this week in the BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, Del.

The top 70 players in the standings will play in the BMW Championship, with the top 30 after next week moving on to the finale a week later in the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

“We’ve been close and to see it finally pay off has been awesome,” said the 25-year-old Zalatoris, who was the 2020-21 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year who didn’t make the playoffs last year because he was not yet a member of the tour. “Yeah, it’s kind of hard to say ‘about time’ when it’s your second year on Tour, but it’s about time.

“It was a grind. This week, I didn’t have my best stuff on Thursday (when he opened with a 1-over-par 71) and I just kept telling (caddie Joel Stock), just keep waiting till the weekend. To kind of see that decision pay off at the last is pretty cool.

“It’s just a relief finally win.”

Zalatoris, whose only previous pro victory came in the 2020 TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes on the Korn Ferry Tour, followed with rounds of 63-65-66, making a clutch 10-foot par putt on the final hole of regulation to get into the playoff at 15-under 265.

Straka, 29, who missed the cut in his previous six starts, made three birdies on the back nine and shot 67 to earn his spot in the playoff.

After both players made pars on the first two extra holes, both at No. 18, Zalatoris almost hit his tee shot into the water on the par-3 11th hole, but his ball lodged between the rough and the brick façade above the lake.

Said Zalatoris: “I was pretty lucky that ball didn’t go in the water.”

Incredibly, Straka then hit his tee shot into the lake.

After Straka send his third shot from the penalty area long into a greenside bunker, Zalatoris also took a penalty stroke and went to the drop area before hitting his third shot to within eight feet of the hole. After Straka blasted out of the bunker onto the green, Zalatoris two-putted for his winning bogey.  

“Yeah, it was pretty crazy,” said Straka, who earned his first PGA Tour victory earlier this year in the Honda Classic. “This course is where every shot you hit you’re on the edge of your seat. Add the nerves of competing for a tournament win to that, especially for a playoff event and yeah, it can get a little crazy.

“That was pretty stressful. The 18th hole is brutal, that tee shot is really hard on 18. And yeah, on 11, you know, you can hit a good shot in there and make birdie, but hit a bad shot obviously and you get penalized for it.

“Unfortunately, that’s what happened to me.”

Lucas Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, made four of his seven birdies on the back nine in a 66 and was three strokes back in a tie for third with left-hander Brian Harman, who also had four birdies on the back nine in a 67.

Sixth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain had five birdies and a single bogey in a 66 to finish four shots behind in a big tie for fifth with eighth-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, who made three birdies coming home in a 67; 10th-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England, who made a tap-in eagle at No. 16 in a 68; Tony Finau, who won his last two starts and had another 68; 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia, who had four birdies on the front nine in a 66; Andrew Putnam of Pepperdine, who finished at 66, and Trey Mullinax, who was in contention before making three bogeys on the last four holes of a 70.

Second-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia, the Open champion at St. Andrews who was assessed a two-stroke penalty by officials before the final round because of an illegal drop the day before, totaled 70 and wound up in a tie for 13th that included seventh-ranked Justin Thomas, who closed with a 66, while eighth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway tied for 20th after a 68.

Fifth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, the 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist, shot 69 and finished in a tie for 57th that included four-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, who came in at 72.

J.J. Spaun of Los Angeles and San Diego State, who was at least tied for the lead after each of the first three rounds, made only two birdies while struggling to a 78 and tied for 42nd.

For complete results and FedEx Cup point totals, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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