Justin Thomas turns the PGA Tour from bland to memorable

Justin Thomas turns the PGA Tour from bland to memorable

After winning his second PGA Championship, Justin Thomas wrapped his arms around the 27-pound Wanamaker Trophy, as thousands of fans surrounded the 18th green at Southern Hills in adoration. They were lucky they awoke in time for his Sunday charge.

Heck, even the eventual champ shanked one off the tee on Sunday.“Just cold shanked it,” Thomas said. “Don’t really know how else to say it. It was the best bogey I’ve ever made in my life.”

The year’s second major had been a snooze for over four days, with the cast atop the leaderboard primarily made up of also-rans looking for a shot at greatness. Everyone from Abraham Ancer to Tiger Woods plodded their way around a Perry Maxwell classic that was both intimidating and cruel.

Cameron Young tried to move up the leaderboard during the final round, then left his chances of victory in a fairway bunker on the 16th hole. Will Zalatoris hung on for life as iron shots found creeks and shrubs and very little short grass. Chile’s Mito Pereira had a career-changing moment staring him in the face until a fateful shot on the 18th hole.That’s about the time the PGA Championship went from uninspiring to unbelievable.

Thomas had rattled off a couple of birdies on the back side before an up-and-down for birdie at the 17th, moving him to 5 under and within a shot of the lead. And he hit a brilliant shot to within 15 feet at the 18th to set up another birdie, only to watch the putt that in the moment he thought he needed for a playoff go skating past the hole.The crowd around the green, now fully invested in the goings-on, let out a collective groan.

Pereira’s shot into the creek off the tee on the 490-yard finishing hole led to a double bogey, not only robbing him of the most unexpected of major championships — and the $2.7 million winner’s purse, lifetime spot in the tournament and all the other baubles — but keeping him out of the three-hole aggregate playoff to decide the thing.

“The leaders could have shot 3- or 4-under today, and like, I could have grinded and made a couple more birdies and look at the leaderboard on 18 and I’m four or five back,” Thomas said later. “I just was trying to birdie every hole I could.”

Coming up behind him, Zalatoris had finally wrangled his renegade irons in time to make birdie at the 17th, getting him back to 5 under. He never gave himself a chance for birdie at 18, instead making a nervy 8-footer to stay there.

“I always felt like I was one, two, three back,” Zalatoris said, “and then once I saw Mito hit into the water on 18, I know that putt that I was going to have on 18 was probably to get into a playoff. So I will bottle that putt on 18 for the future.”

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