Will Zalatoris Claims FedEx St. Jude Championship In Enthralling Playoff

In one of the most exciting and dramatic playoffs, it was Will Zalatoris who came out on top as he secured his first PGA Tour title

Zalatoris smiles at the camera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Where do we start with the FedEx St. Jude Championship? After an enthralling 72 holes, which saw Will Zalatoris and Sepp Straka go tooth-and-nail over the back nine, we were then treated to a drama filled playoff that concluded with one of the most exciting finishes this season!

After both made incredible pars over the first two playoff holes, the pair made it to the par 3 11th. Hitting first, Zalatoris' ball bounced on the rocks surrounding the water six times before staying up on the dry land. All Straka had to do was find the green, but a slight mishit didn't reach its target as it rolled back into the lake short of the green.

Striking a pitch from the drop zone, Straka's ball found the bunker at the rear of the green. However, as this was going on, Zalatoris was considering a chip shot from off the rocks, something that the commentary box were begging him not to do.

Thankfully, sense prevailed, as the American went back to the drop zone, played a stunning shot to seven-feet and rolled in the bogey putt to win. An incredible finish for your first PGA Tour title!

Beginning the day, it was J.J. Spaun who held a one shot lead over Straka, with the American looking to add to his Valero Texas Open victory in early April. However, Spaun stumbled to a closing eight-over-par round 78, as he remained just inside the top 30 of the FedEx Cup standings.

Away from Spaun's collapse, a number of players were vying for the title at TPC Southwind, with the trophy and multiple FedEx Cup points up for grabs. Early doors, it was Zalatoris who charged ahead, as three opening birdies put him two clear.

A few holes later though, that advantage had disappeared, with Zalatoris being joined by fellow countrymen Spaun and Brian Harman. Losing the lead didn't stop the 25-year-old from birdieing the 10th however, as the American remained in front until midway through the back nine.

An epic battle then commenced over the back nine, as Zalatoris and Straka traded birdies over the final few holes. It seemed destined that a playoff was going to happen, but Zalatoris was soon faced with a 10-footer to stay at 15-under-par, an area of his game that has traditionally been his weakness.

But he didn't buckle, rolling in a superb par putt to stay in a share of the lead and join Austrian, Straka in a playoff. For the American, it would be his third venture into a playoff this season, with Zalatoris yet to win one.

Straka waves to the crowds

Straka had missed the last six cuts in a row coming in to the FedEx St. Jude Championship

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As both made their way to the first hole, it appeared to be over after just the tee shots, especially as Straka's 3-wood was pulled and seemed to be heading to a watery grave. However, it barely carried the water as it came to rest in the middle of the fairway. Following the tee shots, both found the green, with the duo safely two-putting for a par and another trip back up the 18th.

If the first playoff hole felt dramatic, the second playoff was like a co-main event! Hitting driver off the tee, a decision which many were confused about, Zalatoris' drive hit the path and came to rest just short of the out of bounds markers. It was advantage Straka, but if you thought his first tee shot flirted with the water, then his second was even tighter.

Landing just right of the water, it did stay on dry land but, such was the difficulty of the second, Straka was forced to take a drop. As his opponent chipped out on to the fairway, the Austrian fired a superb third from 150-yards to inside 10-foot.

Zalatoris wasn't done there though, as his shot from 90-yards finished just outside Straka's golf ball. What's more, in typical fashion, both rolled in the par putts to extend the playoff. Incredible play from both men who were well offline from the tee.

The third playoff hole was really the main event, especially after Zalatoris' shot at the par 3 11th took six bounces on the rocks and eventually stayed up on dry land. Straka stepped up, but an almighty mistake led to a wedge finding the water, with his third finding sand at the back.

Zalatoris, who recently introduced a new caddie to his bag after splitting with his long-time bagman last week, was in the hot seat. Certainly the new caddie earned his paycheck, especially when he forced his boss to take a drop and not risk hitting a shot from the rocks and up against the grass.

Walking back to the drop zone, Zalatoris played a shot that stopped on a sixpence, finishing just seven-foot right of the flag. Like the previous putts before him, you fancied Zalatoris to make it and, as he stepped up, that's exactly what he did, rolling in the putt to much emotion as he secured a first PGA Tour title and top spot in the current FedEx Cup rankings with just two tournaments to go.

Matt Cradock
Staff Writer

Matt joined Golf Monthly in February 2021 covering weekend news, before also transitioning to equipment and testing. After freelancing for Golf Monthly and The PGA for 18 months, he was offered a full-time position at the company in October 2022 and continues to cover weekend news and social media, as well as help look after Golf Monthly’s many buyers’ guides and equipment reviews.

Taking up the game when he was just seven years of age, Matt made it into his county squad just a year later and continues to play the game at a high standard, with a handicap of around 2-4. To date, his best round came in 2016, where he shot a six-under-par 66 having been seven-under through nine holes. He currently plays at Witney Lakes in Oxfordshire and his favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.

Matt’s current What’s In The Bag?

Driver: Honma TW747, 8.75°

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Rocketballz Stage 2, 15°, 19°

Hybrid: Adams Super Hybrid, 22°

Irons: Mizuno MP54, 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 Tour Satin, 50°, 56°, 60°

Putter: Cleveland TFI 2135 Satin Cero

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x