|-5 J Thomas (USA), W Zalatoris; -4 Mr. Pereira (Chi); -3 T Fleetwood (Eng), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), C Kirk (US); -2 R McIlroy (NI)|
|Selection of others: Level J Rose (Eng), T Hatton (Eng); +2 S Lowry (Ire); +3 B Watson (USA); +4 J Spieth (USA);|
American Justin Thomas staged a record fightback before beating Will Zalatoris in a play-off to win the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
Thomas trailed by seven at the start of the day but posted a three under 67 to set the club’s goal at five under.
Chilean Mito Pereira looked set to claim a first major title but doubled down on the 18th after hitting his tee shot into a stream to finish four under.
England’s Matt Fitzpatrick (73) and Tommy Fleetwood (67) finished three under.
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, who led the tournament after day one, closed with a 68 to finish eighth at two under par in Oklahoma.
Thomas was one over after six holes on Sunday but birdied four in his last 10 holes to work his way to the top of the standings, with Zalatoris hanging on to also finish at five under par and capitalize on Pereira’s surrender.
But it was the world number nine who prevailed in the three-hole shootout, birdying the game-winning 17 to claim his second major after also winning that event in 2017.
“It was a weird day,” said Thomas, who tied John Mahaffey’s record of coming from seven behind to win the 1978 US PGA title, also in the play-off, at Oakmont.
“Bones [Thomas’ caddie] did an amazing job of keeping me in the moment. We just tried to play golf for what it is.
“It’s funny, I was asked earlier in the week which lead was safe, and I said ‘no lead’. This place is so tough. But if you hit the fairways, you can birdie and I stayed so patient, I just couldn’t believe I was in a play-off.”
Pereira’s dreams are collapsing
The heartbreaking moments that would define Pereira’s early career came on the 17th green and 18th tee.
A birdie putt that would have given him a two-stroke lead going down the last came inches before his drive moments later found water, ultimately sinking the world number one’s hopes of becoming the first Chilean to win . a major title.
As his ball settled into the creek, Zalatoris threw a daring par putt to tie Thomas at five under, while the former champion immediately headed to the driving range in preparation for a play-off.
Pereira only left the Korn Ferry Tour, the PGA Tour feeder, last summer with his best finish of 2022 before that event, a 13th-place finish at last month’s Texas Open, but he started the day with a three-stroke lead over Fitzpatrick on just his second big start.
Zalatoris, also a relative newcomer but now with five top-10 finishes in eight major starts, had wiped him out by the time he hit the sixth tee, only to bug the tricky par-three hole under bizarre circumstances.
An errant tee shot led to a 15-minute argument with a rules official about where to drop his ball, but he went superbly back and forth from the path of the cart.
From there it became a chore for the leaders, with Pereira pretty much keeping the nose ahead despite Cameron Young briefly joining the lead and Thomas appearing on the horizon thanks to his bogey-free back nine.
That was until the 18th, where Pereira’s denouement led to a double-bogey six that saw him miss the play-off, leaving Zalatoris and Thomas to get away with it on three holes.
The two birdied the 13th par five before Thomas drove the green on the 17th from 302 yards and two putts for a birdie Zalatoris couldn’t match, before keeping his cool with a par the 18th to clinch his second Wanamaker trophy.
“I’ve been knocking on the door of these majors for a little while and one is coming soon,” Zalatoris said. “Finding a short one sucks, but I know we’re going to have one soon.”
Fitzpatrick fails to catch up
Fitzpatrick, playing in the final duo, started the day with genuine hope of becoming the first Englishman to win the championship since Jim Barnes in 1919.
This was mitigated when the 27-year-old bogeyed his first hole and despite being canceled with a birdie on the fourth, he played himself out of the mix with further drop shots at six, 10 and 11.
With those ahead of him working, Fitzpatrick welcomed a birdie on the 15th with a huge fist pump knowing he was two shots off the lead again, only for a bogey at 17 to kill his chances as the Yorkshireman signed for a three-over 73 that brought him down to three under for the tournament.
“It’s hard to take it,” Fitzpatrick said. “I just didn’t hit very well, it wasn’t a good day. It’s disappointing to know you’re two shots away from a shoot-off and you feel you have the game to make the shoot-off and go to win.
“I’m shooting at normal level and I’m outright earning it. If someone had said that before the round, I would have been perfectly prepared to do it. You know your aim and go around it. It wasn’t the day I wanted and that’s what it is unfortunately.”
Fellow countryman Fleetwood also finished three under and McIlroy was one more back, but they left Southern Hills in very different moods – Fleetwood buoyant after five birdies in its final seven holes, with McIlroy regretting another missed chance.
McIlroy had finished the first round with a one-stroke lead after carding a 65, bucking his recent tendency in the majors to start slow, but the damage for the four-time major champion was done with a 71 on 71 on Friday, followed by a 74 on Saturday.
When McIlroy birdied four successive birdies from second, it looked like he could put together a final round similar to the one he compiled at the Masters in April, but that run ended in a bogey at the par-three sixth. – that he had double bogey 24 hours earlier.
The 33-year-old failed to score another birdie in a two-under 68 and left the course without speaking to the media.
Fleetwood, meanwhile, birdied seven times on a 67-day final that also included four consecutive bogeys on the corner to climb into a surprise share of fifth.