It was not pretty and it was not the way you would expect to win a play-off but Will Zalatoris ended his run of near misses to capture a first PGA Tour victory at the third extra play-off hole at the FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis.
Zalatoris defeated Austria’s Sepp Straka in bizarre circumstances at the par-3 11th hole after each had halved the 18th twice in extra play after ending regulation play tied at the top 15-under on the TPC Southwind course.
The American’s tee shot at the 11th came to rest on the stonework supporting the green at the 11th hole that’s surrounded by water. In fact, Zalatoris’ ball was resting in a crack in the stonework and not allowing him to get a club onto his ball.
This was also following Zalatoris halving the 18th for a second time after his tee shot cannoned off a cart path and into pine needles forcing the young American into taking a penalty drop on route to a halving par.
Then after his tee shot at the 11th Zalatoris’ situation was helped when Straka horribly and inexcusability put his tee shot into the water and then missed the green with his third, leaving Zalatoris to win the eighth PGA Tour play-off with a bogey ‘4’.
Now after two prior play-off loses this year, including the PGA Championship, Zalatoris is a winner and what a win for the 25-year-old in his 56th PGA Tour start.
In the process Zalatoris earned a $2.7m first prize, moves to No. 9 in the world and goes to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings.
“It’s kind of hard to say ‘about time’ when it’s your second year on Tour,” Zalatoris said, “but about time”.
Straka, who had beaten Shane Lowry earlier this year to win the Honda Classic, acknowledged the strangeness of the final hole.
“Yeah, it was pretty crazy,” Straka said. “This course is where every shot you hit you’re on the edge of your seat. Add the nerves of competing for a tournament to that, especially for a playoff event and yeah, it can get a little crazy.”
Straka, who played bogey-free over the final 13 holes in regulation, moves to No. 8 in the standings and is assured next week of his first trip to the Tour Championship.