2022 St. Jude Championship leaderboard, grades: Will Zalatoris escapes bizarre playoff with first PGA Tour win


The FedEx Cup Playoffs got off to a dramatic start again. For the second consecutive season, the first postseason event required additional holes. In a three-hole battle between Sepp Straka and Will Zalatoris, it was Zalatoris who triumphed after what can only be described as a bizarre play-off.

After trading pars on the 18th to start extra holes, the two returned to the tee. Zalatoris lost his tee shot to the right, and it could have easily gone out of bounds. Meanwhile, Straka found the danger — narrowly avoiding the water on the left side of the fairway. They would both end up making unconventional pars, but things wouldn’t be normal there anymore.

With Zalatoris’ tee shot finding (and remain inexplicable) the rocks into the hurdle on the par-3 11th, it paved the way for Straka to claim his second PGA Tour title of the season. But in an astonishing moment, he also found the penalty area. Straka couldn’t find the green with his third shot and with his compound errors, Zalatoris’ first win was firmly in his grasp.

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

It was inevitable that this would happen again after his tee shot on the final playoff hole, but the golf gods had a way to intervene. Like Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele, the more you position yourself late on Sunday, the more frequent the breaks – or should I say bounces.

This is especially true for 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 has risen to first place in the FedEx Cup standings. Now he has the potential to follow in Patrick Cantlay’s footsteps and sprint through the finish line at East Lake and raise the FedEx Cup crown. Rank: A+

Here’s the breakdown of the rest of the standings during the 2022 St. Jude Championship

2. Sepp Straka (-15): Going into the week of six consecutive missed cuts, if you’d told Straka he’d have a 9-iron in his hand with a shot at winning the tournament, he would have taken it in an instant. He showed tremendous determination on the trajectory, 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 playing shows the wicked depth that is currently present on the PGA Tour. It also shows that a player’s fortune can change every week. Rank: A+

T3. Luke 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 pivotal moment. While his 72nd hole bogey might make dinner a little sour, in the grand postseason schedule, it was an exceptionally good performance.

“It’s fun,” Glover said. “A similar situation a few years ago and I had, you know, a week and a half and ended up in Atlanta. That was kind of in the back of my mind and I thought, you know, I just have to go to the next week and then everyone has a chance.” Rank: A+

T5. Tony Finau (-11): In a bid to become the first man to successfully defend a title in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Finau went to great lengths. Nearly winning in his third straight start, the four-time PGA Tour winner must be on the shortlist of potential players to raise the trophy at East Lake. As it has been for the past month, Finau’s play has been strong throughout the bag and could be on the cusp of a postseason run. Class A

T5. Adam Scott (-11): He entered week 77th in the FedEx Cup standings, playing himself well within the top-70 cutoff with his top-five result. The Australian didn’t play too often during the 2021-22 regular season and the game plan has proved fruitful. He should have plenty left in the tank if he wants to climb into the top 30 at the BMW Championship next week, before serving as a veteran 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 continue,” said Scott. “I’m happy about that. I get to play four rounds next week. And my golf has been pretty good and it’s of no use to me. I feel like even though I don’t win this event, I feel like I’m going to make it something out of the week, so hopefully that’s good for the confidence going into next week and somehow having a big week and getting through to East Lake.” Class 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. Rahm closed his St. Jude Championship with a round of 4-under 66 and took another top-10 result in the FedEx Cup Playoffs and arguably one to watch for the BMW Championship. He was his normal, stable 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 against the competition. Rank: B+

T13. Cameron Smith (-9): He was the betting favorite overnight, but before he even hit a golf ball, Smith saw his name drop from 11 under to 9 under. After receiving a two-stroke penalty 30 minutes before his start time on Sunday for an incorrect drop during his third round, the champion golfer of the year was immediately put behind the eight ball. He tried his best to shake it off when he birdied his opening hole, but in the end he got stuck. It would have been a big day for Smith; with a win, he would have moved up to world No. 1 and FedEx No. 1 and would be the priceless favorite to be named Player of the Year. Instead, he will have to wait until next week for another chance to deliver 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 downfall. After opening with back-to-back rounds of 67, Thomas signed 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. Thomas achieved a top-20 finish, finishing fourth in tee-to-green strokes thanks to outstanding effort both off the tee and around the green. If he wants to experience a typical effort with his irons next week, he should have a realistic chance of taking his second BMW championship. Grade B-

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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