Will Zalatoris had come up empty in PGA Tour playoffs twice in 2022. On Sunday, he finally broke through in a playoff.
He outlasted Sepp Straka in the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first tournament of the FedEx Cup playoffs, for the win, the first of his tour career. Zalatoris made bogey on the third playoff hole, No. 11 at TPC Southwind, to clinch the victory. He and Straka finished regulation tied at 15 under par.
“It was a grind,” Zalatoris told the NBC Sports broadcast after the win. “This week, didn’t have my best stuff on Thursday and I just kept telling [caddie Joel Stock] just keep waiting until the weekend and to kind of see that decision pay off at the last is, it’s pretty cool.”
It certainly wasn’t easy. Zalatoris’ tee shot on the final hole nearly went into the water, but the ball took eight bounces along the stone boundary before finally resting next to some grass. Straka’s shot did go into the water. Zalatoris took a drop and then hit a wedge to 7 feet from the hole. He made the putt to seal the win.
Zalatoris began the event by shooting 1 over in his first round, but vaulted back among the leaders by going 7 under in the second round, tied with Tyler Duncan for the best second round in the field. He went 5 under in the third round and was four under in the fourth. Straka was at least 2 under in each round.
The win was a milestone for several reasons, beyond just moving him past Scottie Scheffler and into first place in the FedEx Cup playoff standings.
How many PGA Tour wins does Will Zalatoris have?
The win might mean that Zalatoris is the golfer everyone is chasing heading into the BMW Championship, but it meant a lot more for Zalatoris. It was his first career victory on the PGA Tour.
According to the PGA Tour, he is the first player since Camilo Villegas in 2008 to get his first PGA Tour win during the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Prior to Sunday, Zalatoris was 0 for 2 in playoffs in 2022. He lost to Luke List on the first extra hole at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, and then came up short in a three-hole aggregate playoff vs. Justin Thomas at the PGA Championship in May.
His only other professional win came July 4, 2020, when he won the TPC Colorado Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Prior to Sunday, Zalatoris had set the PGA Tour record for most money earned in a season without a victory, at just over $6.5 million, per the PGA Tour. He added $2.7 million to that total Sunday for winning in Memphis.
How old is Will Zalatoris?
Zalatoris was born Aug. 16, 1996, meaning he was 25 when he won the FedEx St. Jude Championship. Of the players who entered the FedEx St. Jude Championship in the top 15 of the playoff standings, only Sungjae Im (24) and Cameron Young (25) are younger.
Zalatoris is now in line to become the second-youngest FedEx Cup playoff champion since the playoffs began in 2007. Jordan Spieth won the 2015 title at 22.