After enduring the bad side of the draw for two days and a frustrating Saturday 74, Justin Thomas improbably won the 104th PGA Championship on Sunday.
Thomas defeated Will Zalatoris in a three-hole aggregate playoff at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thomas played the additional stanza in 2 under par, compared to Zalatoris in 1 under.
This is Thomas’ second major victory and his second PGA triumph, having also prevailed at Kiawah Island in 2017.
Five years ago, Thomas had to overcome a two-stroke deficit through 54 holes. This time, it was seven.
Thomas closed in 4-under 67, while Zalatoris finished with a 1-under 71. Mito Pereira and Cameron Young tied for third place at 4 under.
Extra holes appeared unnecessary, as overnight leader Pereira held a one-stroke lead at the 308-yard, par-4 17th. However, he left a 12-foot birdie putt on the lip and then hit his tee shot into a water hazard at the par-4 18th.
Pereira began the day at 9 under par, leading by three shots. He held at least a share of the top spot throughout the final round, despite five bogeys over his first 14 holes.
With a one-stroke advantage on the 72nd hole, Pereira tried to hit a sawed-off drive but pushed the ball right … right into a water hazard. The 27-year-old Chilean took a penalty stroke, missed the green with his third shot and pitched through the putting surface with his fourth. Pereira, putting from off the green, came up well short from 22 feet and made double bogey. He posted 5-over 75 and missed the playoff by a stroke.
Also disappointed – but not as painfully so – were Young and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Young held a share of the lead on the back nine, but made bogey on No. 14 and double bogey on No. 16. He tied for third, following a 1-over 71. The Englishman, meanwhile, bogeyed the first hole on his way to a 3-over 73 and a tie for fifth, two back.
Thomas was the lone challenger outside of the final two groups. He made his presence felt with birdies on Nos. 9, 11 and 12. Following another birdie at the 17th, he was only one down. And though he missed a 13-foot birdie putt at the final hole, his 5-under total was good enough to keep him alive.
Zalatoris gave everything he had to get to that number. With four bogeys and no birdies from holes 6-16, Zalatoris made a pair of 8-footers to finish birdie-par to match Thomas.
After Pereira did his part to make it a two-man show, this is how the three-hole aggregate playoff played out:
Par-5 13th (541 yards)
Thomas hits tee shot 316 yards into right rough (1)
Zalatoris hits tee shot 319 yards into the fairway (1)
Thomas, from 240 yards, lays up into the fairway, 80 yards from the hole (2)
Zalatoris, from 221 yards, hits the green, 25 feet from the hole (2)
Thomas hits wedge to 6 feet (3)
Zalatoris misses eagle putt, but taps in for birdie (3 and 4; birdie to reach 1 under)
Thomas converts birdie putt (4; also gets to 1 under)
Par-4 17th (308 yards)
Thomas’ tee shot hits just shy of the green and rolls out to 35 feet, on the putting surface (1)
Zalatoris’ tee shot sails right of the green, 26 yards from the hole (2)
Zalatoris chips to 7 feet (2)
Thomas leaves his eagle effort 3 feet short (2)
Zalatoris runs birdie putt 18 inches past the hole, taps in for par (3 and 4; remains at 1 under)
Thomas makes birdie putt to take lead (3; goes to 2 under)
Par-4 18th (490 yards)
Thomas hits tee shot 321 yards into the fairway (1)
Zalatoris hits tee shot 302 yards into the fairway (1)
Zalatoris’ approach shot from 167 yards spins back, 40 feet from the hole (2)
Thomas’ approach shot from 165 yards finishes 26 feet left of the hole (2)
Zalatoris’ birdie putt misses by 3 feet (3)
Thomas two-putts for par and the win (3 and 4)