Justin Thomas secured his second PGA Championship after firing a closing 67 at Southern Hills
Justin Thomas stages major comeback to snatch PGA Championship glory
Justin Thomas staged a record-equalling major fightback before beating Will Zalatoris in a play-off to win the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
Thomas trailed by seven shots at the start of the final round, with six players in front of him, but posted a three-under 67 to set the clubhouse lead at five under.
Chile’s Mito Pereira looked set to win his first major title when he stood on the 18th tee with a one-shot lead, but he suffered an agonising double-bogey at the final hole after hitting his tee shot into a creek to finish at four under and miss the play-off.
Thomas was one over after six holes on Sunday, but had four birdies in his final 10 holes to fire his way to the top of the leaderboard, with Zalatoris hanging on to also finish on five under and capitalise on Pereira’s unfortunate collapse.
But it was Thomas who prevailed in the three-hole shootout, making birdies on the 13 and 17 and a par at the last to claim his second major after also winning the PGA in 2017.
“It was a bizarre day,” said Thomas, who equalled John Mahaffey’s record of coming from seven behind to win the 1978 PGA title at Oakmont. “I was asked earlier in the week about what lead is safe, and I said, ‘no lead’. This place is so tough. But if you hit the fairways you can make birdies and I stayed so patient. I just couldn’t believe I found myself in a play-off.”
Pereira, who was bidding to become the first Chilean golfer to win a major, started the final round with a three-shot lead, but it still wasn’t enough after he played the back nine in 38 shots. “I don’t know what happened. I thought I hit it really good,” the 27-year-old said of his last tee shot. “On Monday, I just wanted to make the cut. On Sunday, I just wanted to win.”
Matt Fitzpatrick, playing in the final group with Pereira, began the day with genuine hope he could become the first Englishman to win this championship since Jim Barnes in 1919. That was dampened when the 27-year-old bogeyed his opening hole and despite cancelling that out with a birdie at the fourth, he played himself out of the mix with further dropped shots at six, 10 and 11.
With those ahead of him struggling, a birdie on the 15th took Fitzpatrick back to within two of the lead, only for a bogey at the reachable par-4 17 to kill off his chances as he closed with for a three-over 73 that took him to three under for the tournament.
“It’s tough to take,” said Fitzpatrick. “I just didn’t hit the ball very well – it wasn’t a good day. It’s disappointing knowing that you’re two shots outside of a play-off and you feel like you’ve got the game to make the play-off and go on to win. I shoot level par and I win it outright. If someone had said that before the round, I’d have fully prepared myself to do that. You know your target and get it around. It wasn’t the day that I wanted, but it is what it is.”
Tommy Fleetwood also finished at three under after a superb closing 67, while Rory McIlroy was one further back in eighth place after a final round 68, The Northern Irishman left the course rueing another missed opportunity after he reached a score of four under after just five holes on Sunday following four successive birdies from the second, but played the last 13 holes in two over to continue a losing streak in the majors that stretches back to the 2014 US PGA Championship.