Justin Thomas won the PGA Championship in the playoffs over Will Zalataris Sports
TULSA, ACLA (AP) – Justin Thomas is a big champion when he least expected it.
On Sunday, Thomas set a PGA championship record when he rallied with a seven-shot deficit at Southern Hills and then saved his most exquisite three-hole playoff shot to defeat Will Zalataris.
He closed with a score of 3 to 67, comparing to a low score in the final round complicated by more nerves than wind. He seized control of the playoffs from 3-two to 35 feet on the 301-yard 17th hole for two bird strikes.
He hit the par and straightened up with a smile, a mixture of joy and disbelief.
“Earlier in the week I was asked which lead was safe, and I replied,‘ No lead, ’” Thomas said. “I can’t believe I ended up in the playoffs.”
Thomas needed a lot of help, and Mita Pereira provided it in a tragic end. The 27-year-old Chilean, who plays only in his second major program, led forward to the last hole with one shot and drove into the creek to make a double sucker.
It was the first time since Phil Mickelson’s Winged Foot at the 2006 US Open that the player lost a one-shot advantage in the final hole and lost in major.
Zalataris looked like he had lost his chances for his first major victory – and his first victory in the PGA Tour – when he scored three 20-foot shots on the 16th hole. But he responded with a birdie from the bunker on the 17th and on the 18th achieved an 8-foot drowning on the 71st.
He joined Thomas in 5-to-275 and they were playing when Pereira shook.
Thomas won 14 months, meeting with The Players Championship last year. He now holds a pair of PGA titles with his 15 career wins.
John Mahafi at the 1978 PGA Championship in Oakman was another player who struck seven from behind on the last day. He also won the playoffs for Tom Watson and Jerry Pate.