Of course the 104th PGA Championship, which featured a Sunday leaderboard filled mostly with unknowns and up-and-comers, was decided in a playoff between one of the game’s biggest stars and one of its brightest young talents.
But Sunday at Southern Hills had it all. Early charges (Rory). Rules confusion (Will). Heartbreak (Mito). A winner (Justin). It even had extra holes (Bonus golf!).
And now the PGA has another two-time champion. Justin Thomas beat Will Zalatoris in a three-hole aggregate playoff on Sunday night in Tulsa to win his second PGA and second major title. Thomas won his first PGA at Quail Hollow Club in 2017.
Thomas, 29, even made some history along the way, tying the largest final-round comeback (seven shots) in PGA Championship history.
So, sure, Sunday at the 2022 PGA Championship lacked a defending champion (Phil Mickelson), the greatest active champion (Tiger Woods), and some weekend star power (Dustin Johnson, Scottie Scheffler, etc.), but it did provide us with the event’s first playoff since 2011, when Keegan Bradley beat Jason Dufner. In fact, Sunday was the first playoff finish at a major in the last 20 tries — the longest drought ever.
The playoff was spread across three holes — the par-5 13th, par-4 17th and par-4 18th. On the first playoff hole, Zalatoris found the fairway and was able to go for the green in two, which led to an easy two-putt birdie. Thomas drove it in the rough and laid up, but he still wedged it close and made his putt. Birdie.
On 17, a short par-4, Thomas drove the green and Zalatoris left himself a tricky pitch over a bunker. Thomas two-putted for birdie but Zalatoris couldn’t match it, missing his birdie try from about eight feet.
Thomas, leading by one, had one hole left. Both players found the fairway and green on 18, but Zalatoris couldn’t convert his long birdie try. Thomas two-putted easily for the win. Zalatoris, 25, has now finished in the top 10 in four of his seven major appearances (and has twice been a runner-up) — but he’s still without a win on the PGA Tour.
Sunday started much differently. Rookie Mito Pereira, a 27-year-old Chilean, opened the day at nine under with a three-shot lead over Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick. Few others seemed to have a chance. Cameron Young was five under and four back, while Abraham Ancer (four under) and Seamus Power (three under) were also in the mix. Further back, a group of major-winners (Thomas, Bubba Watson and Stewart Cink) all sat at two under.
But someone had to go win the tournament.
McIlroy was the first one to give it a go. Teeing off nearly two hours before the leaders, McIlroy birdied Nos. 2-5, but the momentum disappeared as quickly as it arrived. Rory made two bogeys and a bunch of pars the rest of the way, and finished a distant 9th place.
Pereira made the turn at seven under, one ahead of Zalatoris and Young, two ahead of Fitzpatrick and three ahead of Thomas, who made three birdies in a four-hole stretch to apply some pressure down the back nine.
Pereira went bogey-birdie-bogey on Nos. 12-14, but was still clinging to his lead when things got really interesting. UP ahead, Thomas birdied the drivable par-4 17th to get within one. Young double-bogeyed 16, dropping three back; and Zalatoris missed a shorty to save par on 16 and was two back. Suddenly Thomas was alone in second.
Playing the difficult par-4 18th, and all but guaranteed the clubhouse lead, Thomas piped a drive and hit his approach from 167 yards to 11 feet. Thomas missed the putt to tie the lead, but his three-under 67 matched the lowest round of the day.
Zalatoris’ chances seemed grim after his bogey on 16, but he birdied 17 and rolled in a clutch eight-footer to save par on 18, joining Thomas in the playoff.
Pereira, who just missed a birdie chance on 17, needed to par the 18th to win, or a bogey to join the playoff. He made double instead after flushing his drive into the creek. He shot 75 to lose by 1.
Thomas and Zalatoris went on to their playoff without him, and two birdies later, Thomas emerged with major title No. 2.