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Published: 11:26, August 16, 2022 | Updated: 15:19, August 16, 2022
Zalatoris savors breakthrough triumph
By Agencies via Xinhua
Published:11:26, August 16, 2022 Updated:15:19, August 16, 2022 By Agencies via Xinhua

Will Zalatoris holds the trophy after winning the St. Jude Championship golf tournament, Aug 14, 2022, in Memphis, Tennessee. (MARK HUMPHREY / AP)

MEMPHIS, Tennessee-The 10-foot (3-meter) par putt in regulation was so crucial and the moment so important that Will Zalatoris doesn't remember screaming out when he made it, "What are they gonna say now?"

It took three playoff holes to get the answer Sunday in the FedEx St. Jude Championship, and it was more along the lines of what they won't say.

Zalatoris is no longer the best on the PGA Tour without a victory.

Already a force in the majors, Zalatoris got that first win out of the way with clutch putts and smart decisions to beat Sepp Straka and capture the first FedEx Cup playoffs event

Already a force in the majors, Zalatoris got that first win out of the way with clutch putts and smart decisions to beat Sepp Straka and capture the first FedEx Cup playoffs event.

"It's hard to say, 'About time,' when it's your second year on tour, but it's about time!" Zalatoris said. "Considering all those close finishes, it means a lot."

He could have been referring to his runner-up to Hideki Matsuyama in the Masters last year, playoff losses at Torrey Pines and at Southern Hills in the PGA Championship, and most recently the putt that burned the edge of the cup that kept him from a US Open playoff.

This one could have gone either way, a playoff that featured three penalty drops in three holes, neither player making birdie and Zalatoris winning on the par-3 11th with a bogey.

He looked to be in trouble from a fairway bunker on the 18th in regulation until Zalatoris made that putt for par and a 4-under 66.

He was in the trees, close to a boundary fence on the 18th on the second playoff hole when he wisely chipped out and then made par from 15 feet.

Nothing was more wild than the final hole. His tee shot hit the bank and then bounced seven times on the rocks before coming to rest. Straka followed with a shot that hit the bank, took one bounce off the rocks and went into the water. A huge break for Zalatoris? Not really. He had no realistic shot.

Straka went to the drop zone and his wedge went into the back bunker. He played his fourth shot out to 4 feet as Zalatoris was still going over his options.

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"Considering where Sepp was and he had 4 feet for 5, there's no reason for me to try that shot and make it bank right into the grass and go back in the water and all of a sudden I've lost the golf tournament," Zalatoris said.

He went to the drop zone, hit to 7 feet and let his raised hands drop over his head in relief when he made the winning putt.

Zalatoris moves into the top 10 in the world for the first time and takes the No 1 spot in the FedEx Cup, assuring him of a reasonable shot at the US$18 million prize in two weeks.

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. He had a 25-foot putt for the win on the 18th on the first playoff hole and had to make a 7-footer the second time around to stay in the game.

"This course is where every shot you hit you're on the edge of your seat," Straka said. "Add the nerves of competing for a tournament to that, especially for a playoff event and yeah, it can get a little crazy."

They finished at 15-under 265.

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Straka, who played bogey-free over the final 13 holes in regulation, moves to No 8 in the standings and is assured of his first trip to the Tour Championship at East Lake.

Lucas Glover came away with a consolation prize. The former US Open champion came into the Fed-Ex Cup 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 US$18 million first prize.


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