PGA Championship 2022: Justin Thomas Tops Zalatoris in Playoff After Pereira Collapse

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 23, 2022

TULSA, OKLAHOMA - MAY 22: Justin Thomas of the United States poses with the Wanamaker Trophy after putting in to win on the 18th green, the third playoff hole during the final round of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club on May 22, 2022 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Justin Thomas survived a battle of wills Sunday at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to win the 2022 PGA Championship.

The two-time major champion bested Will Zalatoris in a three-hole playoff.

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Justin Thomas is your 2022 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PGAChamp?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PGAChamp</a>.<a href="https://twitter.com/JustinThomas34?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JustinThomas34</a> <a href="https://t.co/TMUlufEtJ5">pic.twitter.com/TMUlufEtJ5</a>

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All the feels. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PGAChamp?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PGAChamp</a> <a href="https://t.co/DxG6HXmVOa">pic.twitter.com/DxG6HXmVOa</a>

Thomas and Zalatoris were tied at five-under through 72 holes. Both earned birdies on the 17th hole that took on an added importance when the final round drew to a close.

Mito Pereira melted down on the final hole, throwing away a one-shot lead and missing the playoff altogether. He claimed a share of third place with Cameron Young.

PGA Championship Leaderboard

1. Justin Thomas (-5)

2. Will Zalatoris (-5)

T3. Cameron Young (-4)

T3. Mito Pereira (-4)

T5. Tommy Fleetwood (-3)

T5. Chris Kirk (-3)

T5. Matt Fitzpatrick (-3)

8. Rory McIlroy (-2)

T9. Brendan Steele (-1)

T9. Tom Hoge (-1)

T9. Abraham Ancer (-1)

T9. Seamus Power (-1)

Full leaderboard available at PGATour.com

Simply getting to the playoff represented an incredible turnaround for Thomas, who trailed Pereira by seven shots following the third round.

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Justin Thomas entered the final round trailing Mito Pereira by seven shots. <br><br>Largest final-round comeback at the PGA Championship: 7 (John Mahaffey/1978).

There wasn't any daylight between Thomas and Zalatoris after the first playoff hole as they each birdied.

The latter blinked first on the second playoff hole as his tee shot landed well to the right of the green on the edge of the rough. The former hit his drive flush and got onto the green.

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JT hits the green on 17!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PGAChamp?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PGAChamp</a> <a href="https://t.co/Eu0xti8Rsm">pic.twitter.com/Eu0xti8Rsm</a>

A birdie gave Thomas a one-shot edge with one playoff hole remaining. He kept the pressure squarely on Zalatoris with another excellent drive. Zalatoris' approach did him few favors as it bounced onto the green but rolled along the fringe to the front end of the putting surface.

That allowed Thomas to two-putt his way to victory.

He nearly completed the comeback in regulation but watched his birdie putt on No. 18 roll to the right of the cup. Pereira could've effectively put one hand on the Wanamaker Trophy on No. 17. Instead, the ball stopped inches from the cup as he was putting for birdie.


This is how close Mito Pereira's birdie putt was to falling on the 17th, which would've given him a two-shot lead. <a href="https://t.co/azLMlIh7ed">pic.twitter.com/azLMlIh7ed</a>

The outcome is far different if either of those putts lands.

Missing out on an extra stroke proved especially costly after Pereira hit his tee shot on the 18th hole into the water. Getting a par to clinch the title was almost impossible, and getting the bogey necessary to force a three-hole playoff wasn't without difficulty, either.


Mito Pereira finds the water with his drive on the 18th. πŸ‘€ <a href="https://t.co/TU9lYYbSfI">pic.twitter.com/TU9lYYbSfI</a>

After taking a one-shot penalty, he hit his approach into the rough and misjudged the power required for his subsequent chip as the ball rolled off the green entirely. When the dust settled, he double-bogeyed and played himself out of the playoff, capping off a devastating collapse.

Pereira was up three shots on Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick coming into the final day. Based on the scoring from the earlier tee times, his advantage felt even bigger as many struggled with the course conditions.

Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Kevin Streelman ultimately posted the lowest score of the day: three-under 67. That didn't spell good news for the challengers attempting to chase down Pereira.

After his third bogey of the round put him at four-under for the tournament, Fitzpatrick seemingly watched his title hopes go up in smoke.

Zalatoris, meanwhile, canceled out back-to-back birdies with two straight bogeys on the front nine. With another bogey on No. 12, he ceded more ground to Pereira.

The Chilean left the door open, though. He made the turn at two-over for the round and needed to sink a tricky par putt on No. 9 to maintain his lead at the time.


Lead still intact πŸ™Œ<br><br>Mito saves par to avoid 3 straight bogeys and makes the turn at -7.<a href="https://t.co/dGOSZimsVN">pic.twitter.com/dGOSZimsVN</a>

Pereira began a bit of a roller-coaster ride when he walked up to the 12th tee. A bogey immediately followed that cost him sole possession of first place, but he responded with a birdie on No. 13. Coupled with a bogey from Young, that boosted his lead stood at two shots.


Bouncing back after a bogey.<br><br>Mito Pereira extends the lead to 2 at -7.<a href="https://t.co/eY6OUOy7Cb">pic.twitter.com/eY6OUOy7Cb</a>

Then he bogeyed No. 14 to slip to six under, which was good enough to fend off Zalatoris and Young.

But another serious contender entered the fray when Thomas birdied No. 17 to improve to five under. Even Fitzpatrick couldn't be written off in fifth place.

Lukas Weese @Weesesports

Pereira -6<br>Thomas -5<br>Zalatoris -5<br>Young -5<br>Fitzpatrick -4<br><br>What a finish this is going to be. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PGAChamp?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PGAChamp</a>

Still, the stars continued to align for Pereira. In a matter of moments, Young and Zalatoris had a double bogey and bogey, respectively, on No. 16.

That left Pereira with a straightforward path to the Wanamaker. Aside from his bogey on the 14th hole, he hadn't appeared rattled as the tension intensified.

The tee shot on No. 18 will likely live long in his memory because it was the moment everything began to spiral. It was a collapse of Van de Velde-ian proportions.

The Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, is the next stop on the PGA Tour. After that, there will only be two more stops until the third major tournament of the yearβ€”the U.S. Open tees off in Brookline, Massachusetts.