Championship of St. Jude 2022 rankings: Will Zalatoris avoids odd playoff with first PGA Tour win

The FedEx Cup playoffs have once again begun in dramatic fashion. For the second straight season, the first postseason event needed extra holes. In a three-hole battle between Sep Straca and Will Zalatoris, Zalatoris emerged victorious after what can only be described as a strange playoff.

After trading pars on the 18th to start extra holes, the two were back at the start. Zalatoris lost his shot from the right position and could easily have gone out of bounds. Meanwhile, Straka spotted the hazard – narrowly avoiding water covering the left side of the fairway in the process. Both would end up doing unconventional positions, but that’s where things would stop being normal.

By finding the strike of Zalatoris (and unexplained staying) rocks into the hazard on the par-3 11th, it set the stage for Straka to capture his second PGA Tour title of the season. However, in a surprising moment, he also found the penalty area. Straka failed to find the green on his third shot and with his putting errors, Zalatoris’ first win was firmly in his grasp.

It’s almost poetic that Zalatoris’ first trip to the PGA Tour winner’s circle happened in such a way, as his path to his point was as aberrant as it gets. Although he is the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, the Wake Forest product was left out of the FedEx Cup playoffs last season because he was not a full-time member. Since then, he’s added heartbreak after heartbreak, losing in a playoff to Justin Thomas at the PGA Championship and just missing one at the US Open.

It felt inevitable that it would happen again after his bogey on the final playoff hole, but the golf gods had a way of intervening. Like Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele, the more a guy positions himself late on Sunday, the more often the breaks – or should I say bounces – go his way.

This is especially true for Zalatoris, as it was never a matter of “if” he would win on the PGA Tour, but rather “when.” His moment has finally arrived at TPC Southwind. With his St. Jude Championship title, he climbed to first place in the FedEx Cup standings. Now he has the potential to follow in Patrick Cantlay’s footsteps and sprint across the finish line at East Lake and lift the FedEx Cup crown. Grade: A+

Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the 2022 St. Jude Championship

2. Sep Straka (-15): In the week after six straight misses, if you told Straka he’d have a 9-iron in hand with a chance to win the tournament, he’d take it right away. He showed tremendous determination during the stretch, landing punch after punch to deal with Zalatoris who was in the pack ahead of him. Ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be, but his play shows the ungodly depth of the PGA Tour right now. It also shows that the player’s fate can change every week. Grade: A+

T3. Lucas Glover: He was ranked No. 121 at the start of the St. Jude Championship and will leave Memphis just outside the top 50 in the FedEx Cup standings. Without a top 20 finish since the Texas Open in April, the former US Open champion played his best golf of the season when it mattered most. While his putt on the 72nd hole might make dinner taste a little sour, in the grand scheme of the postseason, it was an all-time classic performance.

“It’s nice,” Glover said. “Similar situation a few years ago and there was, you know, a good week and a half and I ended up in Atlanta. It was kind of in the back of my head and I thought, you know, I just have to get until next week and then everybody has a chance.” Grade: A+

T5. Tony Finau (-11): Trying to become the first man to successfully defend a title in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Finau put in a big effort. Almost victorious in his third straight start, the four-time PGA Tour winner should be on the list of potential players to lift the trophy at East Lake. As it has been for the past month, Finau’s play has been strong throughout and could be on the verge of a postseason run. Degree: A

T5. Adam Scott (-11): He entered Week 77 in the FedEx Cup standings and was well within the top 70 with his top 5 finish. The Aussie didn’t play too often during the 2021-22 regular season and the game plan proved fruitful. He should still have plenty left in the tank as he looks to climb into the top 30 next week at the BMW Championship before serving as a veteran on the International Team at the Presidents Cup in September.

“I played very poorly yesterday and somehow I recorded a decent score, turned it around and played solid today and gave myself a chance to go through,” Scott said. “I’m happy about it. I have to play four rounds next week. My golf has been pretty good and I have none of that. I feel like even though I don’t win this event I feel like I’m getting something out of the week so hopefully that’s good for confidence going into next week and somehow I’ll have a big week and get to East Lake.” Degree: A

T5. John Rahm (-11): The former world number 1 has had a quiet season with just one win, but he may be on his way. Finishing his St. Jude Championship with a round of 4-under 66, Rahm posted another top-10 finish in the FedEx Cup Playoffs and could be one to watch for the BMW Championship. He was his normal, steady green-to-teen self around TPC Southwind, and the lack of knowledge of the course for players at Wilmington Country Club could help his efforts on the greens relative to the competition. Grade: B+

T13. Cameron Smith (-9): He was the betting favorite overnight, but before he even hit a golf ball, Smith saw his name drop from 11 under to 9 under. Given a two-stroke penalty 30 minutes before tee time on Sunday for a mis-putt during his third round, the reigning Golfer of the Year champion was immediately put behind the eighth ball. He did his best to put it away as he made birdie on his opening hole, but eventually slowed down. It was going to be a big day for Smith; a win would see him climb to No. 1 in the world and No. 1 on FedEx and be the heavy favorite to be named Player of the Year. Instead, he will have to wait until next week for another opportunity to achieve such feats. Degree: B

T13. Justin Thomas (-9): The 2020 winner at TPC Southwind never threatened the leaders as a poor third round was his undoing. After opening with back-to-back rounds of 67, Thomas signed for a 1-over 71 on Saturday. Despite the disappointment, the former FedEx Cup champion should take many positives into the final two weeks of the season. Capturing a top-20 finish, Thomas tied for fourth in strokes gained from tee to green thanks to outstanding efforts both off the tee and around the green. If he is to experience a typical effort with his iron next week, he should have a realistic shot at winning his second BMW Championship. Grade: B-

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