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Friday, October 7, 2022

After a Thrilling Comeback, Justin Thomas Claims the Professional Golfers Association Championship

Phil Mickelson, who became the oldest major winner the year before when he won the tournament at age 50 but elected not to defend his championship, was the focus of the most prominent news line leading up to the 2022 P.G.A. Championship. The attention of everyone at the event then turned to Tiger Woods, who was 46 years old at the time and had just arrived at the Southern Hills Country Club to continue his inspiring return from the injuries he had incurred in a terrible automobile accident 15 months before. But Woods battled physically, and after three rounds, he was in dead last position, so he withdrew from the competition before the fourth and final round on Sunday.

What transpired instead on the last day of the Professional Golfers Association Championship was a peek of professional men’s golf’s young future rather than its aged past. There was yet another spectacular clash between the dazzling, hard-swinging twentysomethings who have taken over the game on a nervous, topsy-turvy day in eastern Oklahoma. These young adults have taken the game by storm.

After the fourth round of the tournament consisted of 18 holes and concluded in a tie, Justin Thomas, age 29, prevailed over Will Zalatoris, age 25, in a tense three-hole aggregate playoff to win his second Professional Golf Association Championship. Thomas, Scottie Scheffler (who won the Masters), Collin Morikawa (who won the British Open), and Jon Rahm (who won the most recent U.S. Open) are the four most recent winners of golf’s major tournaments. All four of these players are in their 20s.

Pereira, who was leading after the third round, seemed like he was going to make history by being the first golfer from Chile to win a major golf title. As he walked up to the 18th tee on Sunday evening, he was participating in the championship’s final group and needed just a par to win the championship.

However, Pereira, who was competing in just his second major event, sliced his tee shot right into a tiny stream that was close to the fairway. Pereira’s approach shot ended up in the thick rough that surrounded the green after he was forced to take a penalty shot from the sea. His chip from that location rolled quite a distance across the green until it finally came to a halt in the fringe on the other side of the green. After making a double bogey, Pereira finished in a tie for third place with the American Cameron Young, who had been Zalatoris’s college teammate while the two of them were at Wake Forest. Pereira and Zalatoris both attended Wake Forest.

Both Thomas and Zalatoris started the playoff off well by making birdies on the 13th hole, which was the opening hole. On the 17th hole, a reachable par-4 that is 302 yards long, Thomas drove the green and had a long putt for eagle that came up 3 feet short of its target. The drive that Zalatoris hit on the 17th hole went just beyond the edge of the green, and his flop shot came to a standstill 8 feet from the pin. Zalatoris’s attempt at a birdie putt missed the target, and he was forced to settle for a par.

Thomas was presented with the opportunity to grab the lead, and he did it by rattling in his birdie putt to give himself a one-stroke advantage going into the third hole of the playoff, which was the 18th.

Both players finished their second shots on the 18th green without a bogey. Zalatoris was unable to make the putt that would have given him a birdie, and Thomas just needed two putts to get the par that would give him the title.

It was Zalatoris’s most recent brush with disaster in a big competition. He had a tie for sixth place in the Masters last month and finished in second place at the Masters the year before. At the 2021 P.G.A. Championship, he finished in a tie for eighth place, and at the 2020 U.S. Open, he finished in a tie for sixth place.

Zalatoris had a front nine that was even par, but on Sunday he struggled with his putting, which has been an issue for him throughout the whole season. He had bogeys on the 12th and 16th holes, but he got back on track by sinking a birdie putt from 8 feet out on the 17th hole. In addition, he made a putt from ten feet out to preserve par at the last hole, bringing his final round score to 71 and bringing his total score to five under par. However, at the time, it did not seem to be enough to successfully apprehend Pereira.

There is a good chance that Thomas ended his round with the same sentiment. After a rocky beginning to the day, he rebounded with a birdie at the ninth hole and a par at the 10th hole. After that, Thomas made another birdie by sinking a putt that was 64 feet long and was placed just off the 11th course. He made a birdie putt from 18 feet away at the par-4 12th hole. Thomas missed two successive birdie putts that were both doable, one at the 13th hole and the other at the 14th hole. However, at the par-4 17th hole, Thomas blasted a shot from a greenside bunker to within three feet, a distance that he successfully navigated for his sixth birdie of the day. With one hole left to play, it would bring him to within one stroke of Pereira’s lead. Thomas’s putt on the high 18th green halted 11 feet beyond the hole, but it crept over the right edge, resulting in a score of par and 67 for the round. Thomas’s drive and approach shot on the hole were both brave.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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