2022 St. Jude Championship board, grades: Will Zalatoris escapes bizarre playoff with first PGA Tour win – CBS Sports

2022 St.  Jude Championship board, grades: Will Zalatoris escapes bizarre playoff with first PGA Tour win - CBS Sports

The FedEx Cup Playoffs have begun again in dramatic fashion. For the second consecutive season, the first postseason event required extra holes. In a three-hole battle between Sepp Straka and Will Zalatoris, it was Zalatoris who proved victorious after what can only be described as a bizarre final.

After swapping pars on the 18th to start extra holes, the two returned to the tee. Zalatoris missed his kickoff right, and it could have easily gone wide. Meanwhile, Straka found the danger — narrowly avoiding the water lapping the left side of the road in the process. They would both end up making unconventional couples, but that’s where things would stop being normal.

With the opening finding of Zalatoris (and inexplicably stay longer) the stones in the hazard on the par-3 11th, it set the stage for Straka to claim his second PGA Tour title of the season. However, in a wonderful moment, he also found the penalty area. Straka was unable to find the green on his third shot, and with his compounding errors, Zalatoris’ maiden victory was firmly in his grasp.

It’s almost poetic that Zalatoris’ first trip to the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour happened this way, because his path to his spot was as unorthodox as they come. While he is the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, the Wake Forest product was omitted from last season’s FedEx Cup Playoffs because he was not a full-time member. Since then, he has added heartbreak after heartbreak, losing in a playoff to Justin Thomas at the PGA Championship and just missing one at the US Open.

Inevitably, it felt like this would happen again after his tee shot on the final playoff hole, but the golf gods had a way of intervening. Just like Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele, the more you set yourself up late on Sundays, the more often the breaks — or should I say rebounds — go their way.

This is especially true of Zalatoris, as it was never a question of “if” he would win the PGA Tour, but rather “when.” His moment finally arrived at TPC Southwind. With his St. Jude Championship title, he ascended to the top spot in the FedEx Cup standings. Now, he has the chance to follow in Patrick Cantlay’s footsteps and sprint across the finish line at East Lake and lift the FedEx Cup crown. Grade: A+

Here’s the breakdown of the rest of the leaderboard at the 2022 St. Jewish Championship

2. Sepp Straka (-15): Coming into the week of six consecutive missed cuts, if you told Straka he had a 9-iron in hand with a chance to win the tournament, he would have taken it in a heartbeat. He showed tremendous resolve down the stretch, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot to match Zalatoris, who was in the group ahead of him. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be, but his game shows the ungodly depth these days on the PGA Tour. It also shows that a player’s fortunes can change in any given week. Grade: A+

T3. Lucas Glover: He was number 121 at the start of the St. Jude Championship and will leave Memphis just outside the top 50 of the FedEx Cup standings. Without a top-20 finish since the Texas Open in April, the former US Open champion played his best golf of the season at the most crucial time. While his bogey on the 72nd hole might sour dinner a little, in the grand scheme of the postseason, it was an extremely clutch performance.

“It’s nice,” Glover said. “Kind of a similar situation a few years ago and had, you know, a good week and a half and got to Atlanta. That was kind of in the back of my head and thought, you know, just got to get to next week and then everyone has a shot.” Grade: A+

T5. Tony Finau (-11): Trying to become the first man to successfully defend a title in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Finau gave it a big effort. Nearly winning in his third straight start, the four-time PGA Tour winner has to be on the shortlist of potential players to lift the trophy at East Lake. As it has been over the past month, Finau’s play has been strong during the sack and could be on the verge of a postseason run. Grade: A

T5. Adam Scott (-11): He entered the week 77th in the FedEx Cup standings and played himself well inside the top-70 cut-off point with his top-five result. The Australian didn’t play too often during the 2021-22 regular season, and the game plan proved to be fruitful. He should have plenty left in the tank as he looks to climb into the top 30 next week at the BMW Championship before serving as a veteran presence for the International Team at the Presidents Cup in September.

“I played really bad yesterday and somehow shot a decent score, and to turn it around and play solid today and give myself a chance to come through,” Scott said. “I’m happy about it. I can play four rounds next week. And my golf was pretty good, and I’m not getting anything out of it. I feel, even though I don’t win this event, I feel like I’m getting something out of the week , so hopefully that’s good for the confidence going into next week and kind of having a big week and going through to East Lake.” Grade: A

T5. Jon Rahm (-11): The former world No. 1 has had a quiet season with just one win, but he may be on to something. Finishing his St. Jude Championship with a round of 4-under 66, Rahm captured yet another top 10 result in the FedEx Cup Playoffs and may be one to watch at the BMW Championship. He was his normal, steady self from tee to green around TPC Southwind, and the lack of course knowledge for players at Wilmington Country Club may help his efforts on the greens relative to the competition. Grade: B+

T13. Cameron Smith (-9): He was the betting favorite overnight, but before even hitting a golf ball Smith saw his name drop from 11 under to 9 under. Assessed a two-stroke penalty 30 minutes before his tee time on Sunday for an improper drop during his third round, the Champion Golfer of the Year was immediately put behind the eight ball. He did his best to get it down as he made birdie on his open hole, but he finally stalled. It would be a big day for Smith; with a win, he would have ascended to world No. 1 and FedEx No. 1, and he would be the prohibitive favorite to be named Player of the Year. Instead, he will have to wait until next week for another chance to accomplish such feats. Grade: B

T13. Justin Thomas (-9): The 2020 winner at TPC Southwind never threatened the leaders as a poor third round was his undoing. After opening with back-to-back rounds of 67, Thomas settled for a 1-over 71 on Saturday. Despite the disappointment, the former FedEx Cup champion should take many positives into the final two weeks of the season. Capturing a top-20 finish, Thomas ranked fourth in strokes gained tee to green courtesy of exquisite efforts both off the tee and around the green. If he is to put in a typical effort with his irons next week, he should have a realistic chance of capturing his second BMW Championship. Grade: B-

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