Sunday at the Sanderson Farms Championship was deja vu for Sepp Straka.
Another playoff, another close loss.
While the playoff in Jackson wasn’t quite as dramatic as his loss to Will Zalatoris seven weeks ago at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, another close call is a tough pill to swallow.
But after the loss in Memphis, Straka was still upbeat.
“It was a good fight. Got to be happy for that,” he said in August.
“Happy” isn’t a word you’d hear many people describe themselves as after a playoff loss. It takes a lot of sophistication to look at that way. Sure, he may not be sharing all of his feelings in that moment with the media, but what he went through was, as he put it, “nerve wracking.”
His final round 67 from the final group put him in one of the most bizarre playoffs anyone has ever seen. Both players made miraculous par saves on the second hole, Straka getting up-and-down after hitting his tee shot into the penalty area.
On the third and final hole Straka followed Zalatoris into the penalty area on the par-3. While Zalatoris was debating what to do about his ball perched on a rock ledge, Straka couldn’t find the green from the drop zone. He had a putt for double when Zalatoris holed out his putt for bogey and the win.
The irony of Straka having another close playoff loss is the first one came to a player, Zalatoris, who had all the reason in the world to feel snake bitten.
He had the second place finish at last year’s Masters, the playoff losses at Torrey Pines and then the PGA Championship, and he also was just a stroke short at the U.S. Open.
When he finally broke through in Memphis, he said he never felt sorry for himself.
“This is why we practice,” Zalatoris said then. “You know, every week that we’re out here there’s some story of history. I’ve wanted to chase history my entire career and obviously that’s why I was so vocal about the majors. So obviously it’s great to finally get the first one out of the way.”
The key difference here is that Straka already got the monkey off his back, notching his first PGA Tour win in February at the Honda Classic. There’s no more first win jitters with him.
Still, two playoff loses in such a short period of time bites, but after the loss, Straka didn’t sound much different from his attitude coming out of Memphis.
“Just more experience of getting myself in the hunt,” he said. “I think that’s huge, the kind of experience you can’t buy. It’s always the goal at the beginning of the week is on Sunday afternoon to have a chance, and I gave myself a chance. Unfortunately it didn’t work out, but next time it will.”
Straka got two more top-10s after his win at the Honda, but then went on a run of eight missed cuts in 11 starts leading directly into the playoffs.
Since then he’s got two playoff losses, a tie for 28th at the BMW Championship and the tied for 7th finish at the Tour Championship.
He’s rebounded from his poor summer and is now looking ahead to getting his next chance in the new season.
“I’m excited,” Straka said. “Golf game is pretty good, especially coming out of the break, you never know how you come out of a longer break. Yeah, happy the game is in good shape, and looking forward to next week.”