Will Zalatoris has claimed his first-ever tournament win on tour, taking out the FedEx St. Jude Championship in a thrilling duel with Sepp Straka on Monday.
With the victory, Zalatoris rockets up to No.1 in the FedEx Cup points and takes home a cool $18 million ($A25m) in prize money.
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It was a tight race to the finish, with Straka sinking a birdie putt to get to 14-under and tie Zalatoris for the lead on the 10th.
At that point the pair were two clear of the rest of the pack and just could not be separated, with Zalatoris salvaging par with a chip shot on the par-4 15th.
Straka then matched Zalatoris’ birdie on 16 to tie his rival at 15 under heading into the final two holes.
It would come down to the final hole of the round, with Zalatoris coming up clutch to drain a big par putt on 18, leaving Straka needing a birdie to win the tournament.
The Austrian responded with a spectacular shot from rough to put himself in a position to do that but missed the 22-foot putt just to the left, instead settling for par to force a playoff.
Straka took a gamble with a drive towards the water but it landed in the fairway while Zalatoris’ shot was in first cut right.
Zalatoris looked in with a chance of taking the win after a heavy putt from Straka but the Austrian came up clutch to save par and send it to another hole.
Zalatoris was up first on the second playoff hole, hitting it far right near the cart path but just inbounds while Straka’s tee shot went left, pulling up just short of the water and in the rough.
The American responded with a solid layup while Straka decided to take a stroke penalty, following it up with an unbelievable shot to put the pressure on Zalatoris.
The 25-year-old though came up big with a clutch putt to save par, which Straka matched to send the playoff to a third hole.
The drama, of course, was far from over with Zalatoris’ tee shot on the third danced on the rock wall before settling while Straka also sent his right as it bounced into the water.
Straka then put his next shot in the bunker, while after an agonising debate with his team, Zalatoris opted to head to the drop zone.
It proved the right call in the end as Zalatoris hit it close to the hole to successfully putt seven foot for bogey and the win.
It was an incredible turnaround for Zalatoris, who was nine shots back in 86th place after the first round, with it looking more likely he would miss cut than win the whole thing.
Zalatoris’ fiancée even asked him what plans he had for the weekend, seemingly convinced he would not being going much further.
“She meant that in all good fun,” Zalatoris told reporters, later asked what answer he gave her.
“I told her let’s cross that bridge when we get there,” Zalatoris said, and it never came.
Instead, Zalatoris recovered to head into the final round just a few shots off the lead and would later be the winner of his first PGA Tour trophy.
Elsewhere, Cameron Smith’s final round at the FedEx St Jude Championship may not have gone to plan but it was a different story for fellow Australian Adam Scott on Monday.
Scott entered the week at No. 77 in the FedEx Cup, needing to move his way into the top-70 to play in week two and did just that courtesy of a brilliant final round.
The 42-year-old carded a 66 in his final round to move up to 44th in the rankings, qualifying for next week’s BMW Championships as a result.
Scott had stormed to the top of the leaderboard at 11 under midway through the final round but will certainly still settle for Monday’s final result.
“I played really poorly yesterday and somehow shot a decent score and to turn it around and play solid today and give myself a chance to go through, I’m happy with that,” he told reporters.
“I get to play four rounds next week. My golf was been good and I’ve got nothing out of it, I feel like even though I’m not winning this event, I’m getting something out of this week so hopefully that’s good for the confidence going into next week.
“I feel like my game is in a good enough spot that I wasn’t searching for anything this week. It was really about putting my mind to do something and getting it done.
“Sometimes that is the hardest thing at this point in my career, week after week, switching the mind on all the time, floating around on auto pilot some times and that does not get you very far.”
Meanwhile, fellow Australian Smith, who was the betting favourite going into the final round of play, copped a two-stroke penalty in a big blow to his bid to become world number one.
T1 — Will Zalatoris (-15) — won in playoff
T1 — Sepp Straka (-15)
T3 — Lucas Glover (-12)
T3 — Brian Harman (-12)
T5 — Trey Mullinax (-11)
T5 — Matt Fitzpatrick (-11)
T5 — Tony Finau (-11)
T5 — Andrew Putnam (-11)
T5 — Adam Scott (-11)
T5 — Colin Morikawa (-11)
T5 — Jon Rahm (-11)
Originally published as ‘This is insanity’: Rising star Zalatoris wins ‘wild’ playoff in epic breakthrough as Aussie roars back