Weekly Recap: Where There's a Will, There's a Way

Weekly Recap: Where There's a Will, There's a Way

This article is part of our Weekly Recap series.

Will Zalatoris had come so close to winning so many times in his brief PGA Tour career, what was three more holes?

In one of the wildest playoffs in memory, Zalatoris and Sepp Straka took turns playing "You take it, no you take it" before Zalatoris won the FedEx St. Jude Championship on Sunday at diabolical TPC Southwind.

Zalatoris, who has four runners-ups -- two of them in playoffs and three of them in majors -- finally broke through in his 56th PGA Tour start. And it was a huge one. He took over the top spot in the FedExCup Standings with two events to go and also moved to a career-high No. 9 in the world rankings.

Zalatoris and Straka both finished 72 holes at 15-under-par, three shots clear of Lucas Glover and Brian Harman, with seven other guys another shot back, including the elite quartet of Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Matt Fitzpatrick and Tony Finau.

Both leaders made some big-time putts to get to the playoff, and then things went off the rails. In the span of three holes, there were water balls, unplayable lies, surprising penalty drops and multiple pressure-filled putts. Zalatoris sank a 10-footer on 18 in regulation and a 14-footer on 18 in the second playoff hole, then won with a 7-footer for bogey on the par-3 11th after both players were forced back to the drop zone for their second shots. It was the first PGA Tour playoff won with a

Will Zalatoris had come so close to winning so many times in his brief PGA Tour career, what was three more holes?

In one of the wildest playoffs in memory, Zalatoris and Sepp Straka took turns playing "You take it, no you take it" before Zalatoris won the FedEx St. Jude Championship on Sunday at diabolical TPC Southwind.

Zalatoris, who has four runners-ups -- two of them in playoffs and three of them in majors -- finally broke through in his 56th PGA Tour start. And it was a huge one. He took over the top spot in the FedExCup Standings with two events to go and also moved to a career-high No. 9 in the world rankings.

Zalatoris and Straka both finished 72 holes at 15-under-par, three shots clear of Lucas Glover and Brian Harman, with seven other guys another shot back, including the elite quartet of Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Matt Fitzpatrick and Tony Finau.

Both leaders made some big-time putts to get to the playoff, and then things went off the rails. In the span of three holes, there were water balls, unplayable lies, surprising penalty drops and multiple pressure-filled putts. Zalatoris sank a 10-footer on 18 in regulation and a 14-footer on 18 in the second playoff hole, then won with a 7-footer for bogey on the par-3 11th after both players were forced back to the drop zone for their second shots. It was the first PGA Tour playoff won with a bogey in more than a decade (2011).

The weakness in Zalatoris' game has been his putter -- he entered the week ranked 120th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting. But that clearly wasn't the case in Memphis, where he ranked 25th in the field.

With the rest of his game, that is more than good enough. The 25-year-old Wake Forest alum leads the Tour in SG: Approach and entered the week second in Tee-to-Green. He was first in both stats at TPC Southwind.

We've known for some time that Zalatoris was an elite golfer, even without a victory. His tee-to-green game is on the short list of best in the world. He is at his best on the toughest courses where there aren't so many birdies, and his strengths can separate him from so many other golfers. Zalatoris was runner-up at the Masters last year and the PGA Championship and U.S. Open earlier this year, along with Torrey Pines back in January. The PGA and Torrey went to playoffs.

With his short game being average at best, Zalatoris has had trouble in birdie-fests. That should improve in time as he further adjusts to the Tour, especially with his brand new caddie Joel Stock on the bag. This was their first tournament together and, while Zalatoris would've won eventually no matter who was caddying for him, it probably was no coincidence it happened this week.

Zalatoris now heads for unknown Wilmington Country Club this week for the BMW Championship, along with the top-70 in the point standings eligible to tee it up. Wilmington has never played host to a professional tournament.

One thing we do know about the par-71 course is that it's uber-long at over 7,500 yards.

Just the kind of course where Zalatoris can showcase his top skills.

MONDAY BACKSPIN

Sepp Straka
This was a huge week for Straka, one that will put him in season-ending Tour Championship and set up his entire 2022-23 season. And it came after a disastrous stretch of six straight missed cuts. Crazy! But he will rue his choices in the playoff. After Zalatoris nearly hit it out of bounds on the second playoff hole, Straka could've played it safe. Instead, he nearly went in the water and chose to take an unplayable drop. Then on the par-3 11th, Zalatoris wedged his ball between grass and rocks, avoiding water by inches. He had ZERO shot and eventually went back to the drop zone. All Straka had to do was play to the middle of the green and two-putt for the title. He went at the pin and landed in the water. He then hit his third shot in a bunker. Regardless, Straka had already showed how tough a fighter he can be, and it carried him to a career-best world ranking of No. 42.

FedExCup Playoffs
Four golfers moved inside the top-70 to advance to next week's BMW Championship. Adam Scott, Lucas Glover, Andrew Putnam and, by the skin of his teeth, Wyndham Clark. On the outs: Anirban Lahiri, John Huh, Brendon Todd and lastly Lanto Griffin, who didn't play in Memphis because of injury. Clark, who started the week in 79th place, edged Lahiri, who started 63rd, by three points. We'd say that's the difference of one shot over the course of an entire season. Remarkable. The big name getting in was Scott, who at age 42 showed that he can still bring it. He closed with a 66 to tie for fifth – and that was with a bogey on 18. Scott led the entire field in putting, gaining nearly 6 ½ strokes. Scott is a better putter than given credit for, ranked 70th this season. Glover, on the other hand, is normally a disaster on the greens. Ranked 198th in SG: Putting coming in, he ranked 17th at Memphis, gaining more than three strokes on the field and he tied for third in the tournament. Glover is now 34th in the point standings and Scott is 45th, so they both still have work to do to reach East Lake. Scott is now back up to 37th in the world and Glover is 82nd.

Brian Harman
If anyone ever took a poll asking, "Who's the best golfer pound for pound," Harman would get a ton of votes. The gritty, diminutive left-hander zoomed up the leaderboard on Sunday with a closing 67 to secure a tie for third with Glover. Most importantly, it moved him into the top-30, from 55th to 23rd, all but guaranteeing a spot in the Tour Championship. He is up to No. 36 in the world.

Trey Mullinax
The journeyman won the Barbasol Championship last month for his first career victory. He has not taken his foot off the pedal since. That win got Mullinax into the Open Championship, where he tied for 21st. He was then 37th at the Rocket Mortgage. And now he tied for fifth in Memphis. But it could have been so much more. Mullinax closed three bogeys in his final four holes (and a birdie). The 30-year-old Alabaman, who began the week right on the bubble at No. 70, was well inside the top top-30 until falling back to 40th. No matter what happens next week, Mullinax is writing quite a late-season story for himself.

Joohyung Kim
We did not expect much from the young Korean, especially a week after his breakthrough victory. Instead, Kim tied for 13th to move up to 26th in the point standings, giving him a great chance to make it to East Lake. He's also inside the top-20 in the world rankings for the first time, at No. 19.

J.J. Spaun
Spaun was bidding to go wire-to-wire, which would've put him in the Tour Championship and given him a second win this season, thereby setting up his career for years to come. Instead, he flat-out collapsed, shooting an 8-over 78 to plummet to a T42 finish. He began the week inside the top-30 and he's still there but at the edge at No. 30. He will have to regroup quickly to stay inside the Tour Championship cutoff point.

Rickie Fowler
Fowler, who barely got in at 125th in the point standings, needed a T11 or better to climb into the top-70. He had a real chance until taking a soul-crushing quintuple-bogey 9 on 18 on Saturday. He wound up tied for 64th and his season is over. Fowler has one more exempt season before, well, who knows what will happen or what he'll do. 
 
Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy
It would be very easy to say they were both rusty, having not played since the Open Championship. But other guys took a similar break and didn't miss the cut. Scheffler has now gone nine tournaments without winning since his torrid winter/spring. McIlroy talked of taking a long break right after he came up short at St. Andrews. He's probably over the heartbreak. But maybe not, despite what he says. We'll find out this week at the BMW.

Jordan Spieth
Spieth's spot in the Tour Championship is secure, even after a missed cut and, if he happened to also miss this week at the BMW. Spieth is very hard to handicap in large part because he's Jordan Spieth – fans want him to do well, and that gets factored into his betting prices. Really, he's been a bit of a tease this season. Sure, he has a win and two runners-up, but he has not played consistently well, unlike most of the guys in the top-15 in the world. And now Spieth will be faced with an uber-long course at the BMW.

Jason Day
Despite being No. 1 in the world six years ago and 14th just four years ago, Day stunningly has little relevance on Tour anymore. He's 34 years old, finished 122nd in the regular-season point standings, missed the cut in Memphis and his season is now over. Last year, he was 114th in points and was gone after one playoff event. Thankfully for him, he's still exempt for two more seasons because it's very easy to see a scenario where Day misses the playoffs next season.

Webb Simpson
Simpson actually finished outside the top-125 but thanks to all the LIV guys leaving, he got into the playoffs. He missed the cut. Simpson has fallen outside the top-75 in the world and, at age 37, it's fair to wonder how much he has left in the tank. It doesn't seem like a lot. When a golfer starts having bad results at his go-to courses – and Simpson stunningly missed the cut a few weeks back at the Wyndham, where he was top-5 machine – those are real red flags. Simpson remains exempt for three more seasons, through 2025-26.

Korn Ferry Tour
Half of the 50-man KF class that will graduate to the PGA Tour next season is known, with 25 golfers qualifying via the regular-season points list. Carl Yuan -- and wait until you see his unique swing -- finished first. Some of the better-known guys are Byeong Hun An and Robby Shelton, who are both rejoining the PGA; Justin Suh, who was part of the Morikawa/Hovland/Wolff college wave a few years back; big-hitting Brandon Matthews and former PGA Tour winner Michael Kim. And, because you can never have enough Taylors on the PGA Tour: Taylor Montgomery and Ben Taylor are coming, too. The other 25 guys will be determined during the KF Tour Finals, where we will see many of the PGA Tour guys who finished 126th-200th in the FedExCup Standings.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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