US PGA Championship: Justin Thomas defeats Will Zalatoris in playoff

-5 J Thomas (USA), W Zalatoris; -4 M Pereira (Chi); -3 T Fleetwood (Eng), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), C Kirk (US); -2 R McIlroy (NI)
Selected others: Level J Rose (Eng), T Hatton (Eng); +2 S Lowry (Ire); +3 B Watson (USA); +4 J Spieth (USA);

American Justin Thomas made a remarkable backlash before beating Will Zalatoris in a playoff to win the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills.

Thomas trailed seven at the start of the day but posted a three-under 67 to set the clubhouse goal at five under.

Chile’s Mito Pereira looked poised to win a first major title but made a double bogey on the 18th after hitting his tee shot into a creek to finish four under.

England’s Matt Fitzpatrick (73) and Tommy Fleetwood (67) finished three under.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who led the tournament after the opening day, finished with a 68 and finished eighth with two under par in Oklahoma.

Thomas was one over after six holes on Sunday but had four birdies in his last 10 holes to work his way to the top of the standings, with Zalatoris holding on to also finish five under par and take advantage of Pereira’s capitulation.

But it was the world number nine who triumphed in the three-hole shootout and made a decisive birdie on the 17th to claim his second major after also winning this event in 2017.

Pereira’s dreams are falling apart

The nerve-wracking moments that will define Pereira’s early career came on the 17th green and 18th tee.

A birdie putt that would have given him a two-shot lead, the latter coming a few inches short before his drive found the water moments later, ultimately raising the world’s number hundred hopes of becoming the first Chilean. to be who won a major title.

As his ball landed in the creek, Zalatoris rolled in a daring par-putt to match Thomas at five under, as the former champion headed straight to the driving range in preparation for a play-off.

Pereira only made the switch from the PGA Tour’s feeder tour last summer with his best finish of 2022 for this event a share of 13th at last month’s Texas Open, but he started the day three-stroke ahead of Fitzpatrick at just his second. major start.

Zalatoris, also a relative newcomer but now with five top-10s in eight big starts, had wiped that out by the time he reached the sixth tee, only to bogey under bizarre circumstances on the tricky par-three hole.

A faulty tee shot sparked a 15 minute discussion with a rules officer about where to drop his ball, but he made a great up and down motion from the cart path.

It became a drag for the leaders from then on, with Pereira almost keeping his nose up front despite Cameron Young briefly taking the lead and Thomas appearing on the horizon thanks to his bogey-free back nine.

That was until the 18th, where Pereira’s unraveling led to a double-bogey six that saw him miss the playoff, forcing Zalatoris and Thomas to cut it over three holes.

Both birdied the par-five 13th before Thomas drove the green on the 302-yard 17th and two-putted for a birdie Zalatoris couldn’t match, before having his nerve with a par on the 18th to take his second Wanamaker Trophy to obtain.

Fitzpatrick fails to make up for ground

Fitzpatrick started the day in the last clutch and with genuine hopes of becoming the first Englishman to win the championship since Jim Barnes in 1919.

That was muffled when the 27-year-old bogeyed on his opening hole and, despite canceling it with a birdie on the fourth, played himself out of the mix with further drop shots on six, 10 and 11.

As those before him toiled, Fitzpatrick greeted a birdie on 15th with a massive fist pump knowing he was again two strokes off the lead, only for a bogey on 17 to kill his chances as the Yorkshireman signed for a three-more then 73 which brought him down to three for the tournament.

Compatriot Fleetwood also finished three under and McIlroy was one further back, but they left Southern Hills in very different moods – Fleetwood cheered after five birdies in his last seven holes, McIlroy lamented another missed opportunity.

The Northern Irishman had finished the first round with a one-stroke lead, countering his recent trend in majors of slow starting, but damage was done to the four-time major champion on Friday with a one-over 71 followed by a 74 on Saturday.

When McIlroy started Sunday’s round with four consecutive birdies from second, it looked like he would get back into the race, but that run ended with a bogey in the par-three sixth – which he made a double bogey 24 hours earlier. — and the 33-year-old failed to birdie another two-under 68.

Fleetwood, meanwhile, made seven birdies in a final day 67, which also included four straight bogeys through the bend to climb to a surprising share of fifth.

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