Justin Thomas wins US PGA playoff title after late Pereira implosion | United States PGA
Unfortunately, Mito Pereira’s painful implosion will be more memorable than Justin Thomas’ victory.
Pereira stood on the 18th tee in the final run of this United States PGA Championship with the making of history within reach. There had never been a big Chilean winner before. There still isn’t; Pereira, needing par for the win, dug a wayward drive into a water hazard. An 18-year-old disabled golfer was reportedly appalled by the hit.
Pereira’s double bogey six didn’t even allow him the consolation of a playoff. This took place between Thomas and Will Zalatoris after they equalized at five under par. This tournament proved to be the slowest of the burners, but the high drama was worth the wait.
For Thomas, US PGA glory for the second time. A terrific drive within 40 feet of the pin on the par four 17, the second hole of the playoffs, was key to victory. He edged Zalatoris by one on holes 13, 17 and 18. In regulation play, Thomas’ closing 67 was better than Zalatoris by four.
Pereira, to his great credit, accepted all interview requests. “Today I was really nervous,” admitted the world number 100. “I tried to manage it a bit but it was really difficult. I thought I was going to win the 18, but that’s how it is. We will have another one. Of course.
Matt Fitzpatrick, looking to become the first Englishman since 1919 to win this event, finished two shots clear of the qualifiers after a final 73. “It’s tough to take but I just didn’t hit the ball very well,” Fitzpatrick said.
Thomas got in the running with a 65-foot birdie putt that hit the bottom of the hole at the 11th. The 2017 champ picked up another shot in the 12th. As those in front slipped and stumbled, Thomas was the man to watch. He had his head in his hands after missing a decent chance on the 15th, which he assumed was a big moment. Yet he refused to give it to her. A birdie three on the penultimate hole edged him within one of Pereira. At the last, Thomas missed from 10 feet to equalize Pereira but the salvation was not far off.
Tommy Fleetwood’s stunning back nine of 31, including four birdies in a row from 14th, meant a top 10 finish. It was Fleetwood’s best major finish since the 2019 Open. Fleetwood met its fair share of difficulties on the course since Shane Lowry prevailed at Royal Portrush.
“This year’s Masters was my best result I’ve ever had in a Masters; it’s the best result I’ve ever had at the PGA,” Fleetwood said. “If I can keep this train moving, the other two should be decent major weeks.
“Part of life is that you have your good times and your bad. I never stopped working. I always did my best. I always felt like I worked really hard. I think that everyone who reaches a certain level, given the right information, is by far good enough to come out the other side.
Rory McIlroy started day four sitting nine shots off the lead and with no apparent chance of winning his fifth major. Hopes were raised with a famous victory from McIlroy as he produced birdies in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th. The run was halted by a bogey in the 6th and a 10-par run before another knockdown in the 17th.
The fact that McIlroy did not stop for media duties suggests that he was seriously stung by playing out of this tournament after an opening 65. Saturday’s 74 was where the real damage was done; largely by McIlroy playing 6th and 11th – by three – in a combined five. A closing 68 left McIlroy two under par.
Justin Rose admitted his recent form had been poor, which added value to a fourth-round 68 for an even total. “It helps with confidence,” Rose said. “You can do all the work in the world, but you have to go out and play tournament golf. You must smell the mini butterflies as you come out.
As a tense battle ensued at the helm of proceedings, it was fitting to remember how Tiger Woods used to wrap up major wins with minimal fuss. There was no update from Woods after the PGA of America announced his withdrawal from this event after 54 holes. Whether he is in suitable physical condition to compete in next month’s US Open remains open to debate.
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