MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Will Zalatoris had the most money and the best world ranking of anyone without a PGA Tour victory. He changed that Sunday by winning the FedEx St. Jude Championship without making birdie in a three-hole playoff.
Heartache in two previous playoff losses this year — one in a major — turned into relief for Zalatoris after a wild finish in the TPC Southwind. It ended when he took a penalty drop from the rocks that frame the par-3 11th green and holed a 7-foot bogey putt to beat Sepp Straka.
Zalatoris, who played collegiately at Wake Forest, moves into the top 10 in the world for the first time and takes the No. 1 spot in the FedEx Cup, assuring him a reasonable shot at the $18 million prize in two weeks.
He was clutch even if he was scrambling. It started with a 10-foot par save on the 18th in regulation for a 4-under 66 to post at 15-under 265.
Straka, already a winner this year in the Honda Classic, narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie putt for the win on the 18th for a 67.
On the third extra hole, Zalatoris watched his tee shot hit the bank and then the rocks, and then the ball bounced seven times before coming to rest next to the lip of grass. He was in trouble, even if the ball was dry. But then Staka went right, took one bounce off the slope, one off the rocks and into the water.
Straka went into a back bunker and blasted out to 4 feet. Zalatoris studied his options on how to get off the rocks before wisely deciding to go to the drop zone. He hit his wedge to 7 feet and raised both arms over his head when the putt dropped. He won $2.7 million.