Justin Thomas Wins PGA Championship in Playoff Over Will Zalatoris

Just in time, Thomas won the PGA for a second time with a Sunday charge while a war of attrition broke out around him at Southern Hills.

After Thomas somehow won his second PGA Championship, besting Will Zalatoris in a playoff, his visage holding the Wanamaker Trophy was already displayed on the big electronic scoreboard by the 18th green as the awards ceremony concluded there.

PGA of America president Jim Richerson, in blue blazer and tie, squinted in the golden evening sunlight, flashed a big smile and shook his head. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see something like this again,” Richerson said.

“Even Justin, after he was off the microphone over there, said, ‘Seven back?’ He still couldn’t believe it. And, he’s the son of a PGA of America professional and the grandson of a PGA of America professional. We had a pretty good finish last year but this? This is unbelievable.”

At no point during most of the weekend did it appear the Wanamaker would be going home with Thomas for a second time in five years. With Chile’s surprising Mito Pereira? Maybe. Gritty Will Zalatoris? Possibly. Impressive Cameron Young or game Matt Fitzpatrick? Wouldn’t be surprised.

But Thomas? Surely not. He played the round of the week in high winds Friday morning, posting a 67, but then coughed up five bogeys in mild conditions during Saturday’s third round and faded out of the picture, putting himself seven strokes behind the unheralded Pereira and five shots out of second place.

Even Sunday didn’t look to be Thomas' time. Especially when he bogeyed the par-3 6th hole for a second straight day and was losing ground. Then, the authentic Justin Thomas showed up. Justin time.

He played the last 12 holes in 5 under par but it was better than that. Thomas narrowly missed at least four other putts. He could’ve won this PGA going away. But then we wouldn’t have had the drama, the spectacle, the nerve-busting tension, the agony and the ecstasy and all that other stuff that sells Hollywood scripts.

The PGA Championship didn’t just get the champion it deserved, it got the champion who deserved it the most. Thomas hit more clutch shots than anyone else, and went birdie-birdie on the first two holes of the playoff to put Zalatoris on his heels. Then at the 18th hole for a second time Sunday, he hit a superb approach shot exactly where he needed to.

In regulation, Thomas flagged it and had a 10-footer for birdie from just past the hole. He thought he had to sink it because he was one stroke behind Pereira and was upset when he didn’t. In the playoff, Zalatoris left his approach on the 18th green’s lower level so Thomas was sure par was going to be good enough. His 9-iron shot to the middle of the green was pin-high.

He lagged the birdie putt to within inches, ironically hitting the Zalatoris’ marker that he’d moved at Thomas’ request, then tapped in for a victory that was unlikely a few hours earlier but by now was inevitable.

You didn’t have to be a lip-reader to know that Thomas said, “Oh, my god!” as he pulled off his hat, looked to the sky and felt the first tears run down his cheeks after he tapped in the putt. He hugged his caddie, Jim (Bones) Mackay. Within moments, he shared a group hug with his dad, Mike, and his mom, Jani.

“I was jittery and almost couldn’t feel my limbs walking up to that last tap-in,” Thomas admitted. “Although trying to two-putt from 25 feet is usually pretty doable, but downhill when you’ve got to two-putt to win, I was very pleased to see it end up that close.”