Justin Thomas grabbed the 27-pound Wanamaker Trophy trophy after winning his second PGA Championship, and thousands of fans who sounded on the 18th green amid the setting sun in the Southern Hills showered him with grace.
Good thing they woke up in time for his Sunday charge.
For almost four full days the second major of the year was a serious respite, the cast at the top of the list of leaders mostly consisted of those who also ran in search of a moment of glory. Golf itself was also spectacular, as everyone, from Abraham Anser to Tiger Woods, made their way around Perry Maxwell’s classics, which were both prohibitive and relentless.
Heck, even the ultimate champion shook one off the tee on Sunday.
“It just shook him cold,” Thomas said. “I don’t know how else to say. It was the best scarecrow I’ve ever made in my life. “
Cameron Young tried to climb the leaderboard in the final round and then left his chances of winning the fairway bunker on the 16th hole. Will Zalataris lasted a lifetime when iron arrows found streams, bushes and very little short grass. Chilean Mitt Pereira had a career-changing moment looking him in the face before the fatal blow on the 18th hole.
Around this time the PGA Championship turned from uninspiring to incredible.
Pereyra’s strike in the creek near the tee on the 490-yard finish led to double nonsense, not only depriving him of the most unexpected major championship – and a $ 2.7 million winner’s wallet, tournament seat and all other lures – but keeping him out a three-hole playoff unit to solve the case.
Thomas repelled a pair of birds on the back before going up and down the bird on the 17th, moving it 5 below and within a shot from the lead. And he made a brilliant shot to 15 feet on the 18th to set up another bird, just to watch the shot, which at the moment he thought he needed for the playoffs, slipped past the hole.
The crowd around the green, now fully aware of what was happening, let out a collective moan.
“Today the leaders could have killed 3 or 4 less and I could make a couple more birds and look at the leaderboard at 18 and I’m back at four or five,” Thomas said later. “I was just trying to punch every hole I could.”
Approaching from behind, Zalatoris finally had time to argue with his renegades to make a birdie on the 17th, bringing it back to 5th below. He never gave himself a chance at a birdie at 18, instead of staying there.
“I always felt like I was back for one, two, three,” Zolataris said, “and then as soon as I saw Mito hit the water at 18, I know that the blow I was going to make at 18 was will probably get to the playoffs. So I’ll be bottling that put on 18 for the future. ”
Thomas and Zolataris watched Pereira cancel and then return to the playoffs.
After two comparable birds on the 13th hole, Thomas demonstrated the calm that comes when he was in such a situation before, tearing his tee on the green on the 308th yard of the 17th. He made two bird strikes, while Zalatoris could only drive equally, sending the 2017 PGA champion to 18th place – this time with his own one-shot advantage.
When the once dormant crowd was still fighting for the position, Thomas and Zolataris found the Greens with their throws on the approach, and the only drama that remained was whether the son of a longtime professional club could come out on two for victory.
He did. And what was a sad championship ended dramatically.
Thomas corresponded to the biggest comeback in the history of the PGA Championship, set by John Mahafi in 1978 in Oakmont, where he also rallied from seven down before winning the playoffs over Tom Watson and Jerry Pate. And his last 67th round coincided with the lowest round of the day, which ultimately helped him finish his 14-month period without a win.
It also gave Southern Hills another notable major champion – of the previous seven, six are in the Hall of Fame.
“It’s funny,” Thomas said. “Earlier in the week I was asked which lead was safe, and I said, ‘No lead.’ This place is so cruel. But if you get in the fairway, you can make birds, and I stayed so patient. I just couldn’t believe I was in the playoffs. “
Justin Thomas transforms PGA from elusive to memorable