Will Zalatoris wins first TOUR event at FedEx St. Jude Championship

Will Zalatoris wins first TOUR event at FedEx St. Jude Championship

Claims victory in first FedExCup Playoffs event before advancing to BMW Championship

Will Zalatoris makes bogey to win FedEx St. Jude on third playoff hole
On the third playoff hole at the 2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship, Will Zalatoris saves bogey to win the playoff against Sepp Straka after his tee shot bounced on the rocks, avoiding the water.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Will Zalatoris had the most money and the best world ranking of anyone without a PGA TOUR victory. He changed that Sunday by winning the FedEx St. Jude Championship without making birdie in a three-hole playoff.

He moved to No. 1 in the FedExCup as the TOUR heads to the second FedExCup Playoffs event at the BMW Championship, where the top 70 will compete.

Heartache in two previous playoff losses this year — one in a major — turned into relief for Zalatoris after a wild finish at TPC Southwind. It ended when he took a penalty drop from the rocks that frame the par-3 11th green and holed a 7-foot bogey putt to beat Sepp Straka.

Zalatoris moves into the top 10 in the world for the first time, and as the leader of the FedExCup, it assures him a shot at the $18 million prize in two weeks at the TOUR Championship at East Lake.

He was clutch even if he was scrambling. It started with a 10-foot par save on the 18th in regulation for a 4-under 66 to post at 15-under 265.

Straka, already a winner this year in The Honda Classic, narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie putt for the win on the 18th for a 67.

Both made par on the 18th on the first extra hole. Then, as Straka said after the loss, “It can get a little crazy” on a course like TPC Southwind and a closing hole like No. 18.

Zalatoris went right off the tee, off the cart path and a few feet from a boundary fence, leaving him no choice but to chip out. Straka barely cleared the water on the left, but was just inside the hazard line. He chose to take a penalty drop and hit it to 7 feet. Zalatoris hit his third to just inside 15 feet and made the par. Straka matched him and they went to the 11th.

Zalatoris watched his tee shot hit the bank and then the rocks, and then the ball bounced seven times before coming to rest next to the lip of grass. He was in trouble, even if the ball was dry. But then Straka went right, took one bounce off the slope, one off the rocks and into the water.

Straka hit into a back bunker from the drop zone and blasted out to 4 feet. Zalatoris studied his options on how to get off the rocks before wisely deciding to go to the drop zone. He hit his wedge to 7 feet and raised both arms over his head when the putt dropped.

“To see that decision pay off was pretty cool,” Zalatoris said.

He won $2.7 million from his first PGA TOUR postseason event, and it takes the sting out of playoff losses at the Farmers Insurance Open and at Southern Hills in the PGA Championship. Zalatoris also missed a 15-foot putt on the final hole of the U.S. Open that would have forced a playoff.

Straka, who played bogey-free over the final 13 holes of regulation, moves to No. 8 in the FedExCup and is assured his first trip to the TOUR Championship.

Lucas Glover came away with a consolation prize. The former U.S. Open champion came into the FedExCup Playoffs at No. 121, knowing that only the top 70 advance to the next tournament.

Glover closed with a 66 and wound up in a tie for third. Not only was he among four players who moved into the top 70, he now is at No. 34 and has a good chance of being part of the top 30 who go to the TOUR Championship to play for the $18 million first prize.

Also moving into the top 70 were Adam Scott, Andrew Putnam and Wyndham Clark, who had reason to think he had thrown away his chances when he played a four-hole stretch in 4 over par and had to save par on the 18th for a 72. He finished at No. 70 by three points.

Meanwhile, Masters champion Scottie Scheffler missed the cut and spent Sunday playing Pine Valley for the first time.

Cameron Smith, winner of THE PLAYERS and The Open, could have replaced Scheffler at No. 1 by winning. He arrived at the TPC Southwind two shots out of the lead. And then he was four shots back without hitting a shot. Smith was given a two-shot penalty when rules officials realized upon review that when Smith took a penalty drop in the third round, the ball was still touching the red hazard line.

They checked with Smith, who confirmed it was touching the line. He birdied the first hole, made only one other birdie, shot 70 and tied for 13th.