FedEx St Jude Championship: In a play-off, Will Zalatoris defeated Sepp Straka to win the FedEx St Jude Championship, earning his first PGA Tour victory.
After 72 holes, Zalatoris and Straka finished tied for first place on 15 under. The eventual victor sank a crucial eight-footer on the 18th to preserve par and help force a playoff.
The first two holes of the play-off were completed by the pair making par twice more on the 18th, with Zalatoris sinking a second long putt to stay in it. The third hole was the par-three 12th when both players were forced to take drops following errant tee shots.
While Straka was less fortunate, Zalatoris flirted with the sea, but his ball somehow managed to stay on the rocks just off the edge of the green. Zalatoris was ultimately compelled to accept a drop since he was presented with a nearly unplayable falsehood.
After a run of close calls, notably in the majors, Straka next found the back-side bunker from the drop zone, creating the opportunity for Zalatoris, who got up and down in two to secure his maiden PGA Tour victory.
The 25-year-old American lost the PGA Championship in a three-hole play-off to Justin Thomas earlier this year, and he also tied for second place at the US Open after losing a tense final-day match with Matt Fitzpatrick. In addition, Zalatoris came in second place to Hideki Matsuyama in the 2021 Masters.
“It’s kind of hard to say ‘about time’ when you’re in your second year on Tour but [it’s] about time,” Zalatoris said.
“Considering all the close finishes that I’ve had this year, to finally pull it off means a lot.”
JJ Spaun, who had a one-shot advantage over Straka overnight, had his chances of winning severely diminish on the final day. The American scored a 68 and finished far behind the leaders at five under.
Before his last round had started, Australian Cameron Smith, who would have risen to the top of the global rankings with a victory, took a significant hit.
The 28-year-old seemed to shoot a third-round score of 67, leaving him two strokes behind Spaun, but his score was later adjusted to reflect a two-shot penalty for starting his third-round fourth hole from the incorrect location.
Social media videos revealed Smith had taken a drop and that his ball had ended up on the red line designating the penalty area on the par-three hole.
Smith, who captured his first major championship at the 150th Open at St. Andrews and the Players Championship in March, was unable to overcome the penalty and finished with a final round score of 70, which was even par.
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