With one of the biggest comebacks in history, American golfer Justin Thomas won his second PGA Championship title in the final playoff after Chile’s Mito Pereira let this Grand Slam title slip away on the last hole.
Thomas defeated compatriot Will Zalatoris in the three-hole tiebreaker in Southern Hills (Tulsa, Oklahoma) to lift his fifteenth PGA title and second Grand Slam title after the 2017 PGA Championship.
The 29-year-old American had started the final round in seventh place on the table, seven strokes off the lead, and made the third-biggest comeback in Grand Slam history.
“It’s a very bizarre day,” Thomas acknowledged. “This place is so hard… I still don’t think I was capable of winning the playoff.”
Both Thomas and Zalatoris, seeking the first trophy of their career, benefited from the dramatic collapse of Chile’s Mito Pereira on the final hole.
Pereira, who started the day in the lead with three strokes of advantage, surpassed his rivals by a blow in the absence of the 18th hole, in which he sent the ball into the water in his starting stroke.
Resenting his mistake, the Chilean made a double bogey that made him fall to the third position with a card of 75 strokes (+5) and a cumulative of 276 (-4).
“It’s hard to end up like this. He had played very well all week,” the Chilean said in a brief statement to CBS.
“You have so much pressure on your body that maybe you don’t even know what you’re doing,” he said of his last hole.
Pereira, 27, had amazed the world of golf all week, where he was a semi-unknown player as he did not have PGA titles on his record and played only his second Grand Slam tournament.
“I needed to make a couple more birdies to push a little harder to win,” he said of his performance on Sunday. “But I’m happy with the way it turned out.”
“Last Monday I just wanted to get through the cut and this Sunday I was fighting to win. I’m sticking with that to learn for the future,” the Chilean said with a faint smile.
Pereira was one step away from being the first Latin American to win the PGA Championship and the third to lift a Grand Slam after Argentina’s Roberto de Vicenzo at the 1967 British Open and Angel Cabrera at the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Augusta Masters.
– Explosive comeback –
The golfer from Santiago was able to respond to the attacks of his pursuers throughout the day. Pereira was reached at the top of the table at various points in his tour by Zalatoris and the American Cameron Young, but he always overcame to stay the leader.
When Thomas finished his course, Pereira dominated by one stroke with his last two holes and only competed against himself.
On the 17th, he was inches away from sealing a birdie that would have avoided the drama on the 18th.
Pereira’s debacle left the title at stake in a three-hole playoff (13, 17, and 18) between Thomas, PGA No. 9, and Zalatoris, 30th.
Thomas used his experience to win the tiebreaker with a cumulative -2 on all three holes, to -1 of Zalatoris.
Thomas’ comeback has only been surpassed in a Grand Slam by Paul Lawrie’s ten strokes at the 1999 British Open and Jack Burke Jr.’s eight strokes at the 1956 Augusta Masters.
Thomas broke into the title fight when most favorites had long since fallen apart.
World number one Scottie Scheffler of the United States did not cut on Friday, and number two Jon Rahm finished far off the lead.
The Spaniard, who would have retaken the circuit’s lead with a victory, signed his best card on Sunday with 68 strokes (-2), with four birdies and two bogeys, and finished with 286 strokes (+6) in 48th place.
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, retired for the first time as a grand slam professional on Saturday after three rounds. He suffered the aftermath of serious injuries sustained in his 2021 car accident.