Will Zalatoris had the most money and the best world ranking of anyone without a PGA Tour victory. He changed that Sunday by winning the FedEx St. Jude Championship without making birdie in a three-hole playoff.
Heartache in two previous playoff losses this year — one in a major — turned into relief for Zalatoris after a wild finish in the TPC Southwind. It ended when he took a penalty drop from the rocks that frame the par-3 11th green and holed a 7-foot bogey putt to beat Sepp Straka.
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 a reasonable shot at the $18 million prize in two weeks.
He was clutch even if he was scrambling. It started with a 10-foot par save on the 18th in regulation for a 4-under 66 to post at 15-under 265.
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.
Both made par on the 18th on the first extra hole. Then, as Straka said after the loss, “It can get a little crazy” on a course like, and a closing hole like No. 18.
Zalatoris went right off the tee, off the cart path and a few feet from a boundary fence, leaving him no choice but to chip out. Straka barely cleared the water on the left, but was just inside the hazard line. He chose to take a penalty drop and hit into 7 feet. Zalatoris hit his third to just inside 15 feet and made the par. Straka matched him and they went to the 11th.
Zalatoris watched his tee shot hit the bank and then the rocks, and then the ball bounced seven times before coming to rest next to the lip of grass. He was in trouble, even if the ball was dry. But then Staka went right, took one bounce off the slope, one off the rocks and into the water.
Straka went into a back bunker and blasted out to 4 feet. Zalatoris studied his options on how to get off the rocks before wisely deciding to go to the drop zone. He hit his wedge to 7 feet and raised both arms over his head when the putt dropped.
“To see that decision pay off was pretty cool,” Zalatoris said.
He won $2.7 million from his first PGA Tour postseason event, and it takes the sting out of playoff losses at Torrey Pines and at Southern Hills in the PGA Championship. Zalatoris also missed a 15-foot putt on the final hole of the US Open that would have forced a playoff.
Straka, who played bogey-free over the final 13 holes in regulation, moves to No. 8 in the standings and is assured his first trip to the Tour Championship at East Lake.
Champions — Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Boeing Classic in Snoqualmie, Wash., for his third PGA Tour Champions victory of the season, closing with a 5-under 67 to hold off David McKenzie by two strokes.
European — Ewen Ferguson of Scotland captured the second title of his rookie season on the European tour by winning the ISPS Handa World Invitational by three shots.
Ferguson closed with a 1-under 69 to complete a wire-to-wire victory at Galgorm Castle, adding to his win at the Qatar Masters in March. He finished 12 under for the tournament.
Connor Syme and Borja Virto were tied for second place after closing rounds of 68.
“It feels unbelievable, just can’t believe how calm I was out there,” the No. 211-ranked Ferguson said.
Ferguson said he banned his mother and father from coming to watch because the last tournament they attended “didn’t go so well.”
“My dad’s probably at the club buying the full club drinks,” he said. “My whole family’s life revolves around me playing golf. Their happiness seems like it’s all about me and my golf. It’s been a good year and obviously you get times where it doesn’t go so well so I think you really need to appreciate times when you’re picking up trophies.”
Maja Stark of Sweden closed with a 10-under 63 and won the ISPS Handa World Invitational for her third victory this year on the Ladies European Tour, and this one with an additional perk. The tournament is co-sanctioned with the LPGA Tour, giving the former Oklahoma State star access to join the LPGA.
Stark started the final round two shots behind Amanda Doherty and quickly seized control with a 31 on the front nine at Galgorm Castle. She had nine birdies through 14 holes and turned a tight race into a rout. Stark finished at 20-under 271, five shots clear of Allisen Corpuz, who closed with a 68.
US Women’s Amateur — Saki Baba routed Monet Chun of Canada 11 and 9 to become the second Japanese winner in US Women’s Amateur history. The 17-year-old Baba won the last six holes, ending the match with a birdie on the par-3 27th hole at Chambers Bay (Wash.) Baba joined 1985 champion Michiko Hattori as the only Japanese winners.