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-three 11th green and holed a seven-foot bogey putt to beat Sepp Straka.
Zalatoris 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 four-under 66 to post a 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.
Both made par on the 18th on the first extra hole. Then, as Straka said after the loss, “It can get a little crazy” on a course like Southwind, and a closing hole like No. 18.
Zalatoris went right off the tee, off the cart path and a few feet from a boundary fence, leaving him no choice but to chip out. Straka barely cleared the water on the left, but was just inside the hazard line. He chose to take a penalty drop and hit into seven feet. Zalatoris hit his third to just inside 15 feet and made the par. Straka matched him and they went to the 11th.
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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 four 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 seven feet and raised both arms over his head when the putt dropped.
“To see that decision pay off was pretty cool,” Zalatoris said.
British Open champion Cameron Smith arrived at TPC Southwind two shots out of the lead. And then he was four shots back without hitting a shot. Smith was given a two-shot penalty when rules officials realized upon review that when Smith took a penalty drop in the third round, the ball was still touching the red hazard line.
They checked with Smith, who confirmed it was touching the line. He birdied the first hole, made only one other birdie, shot 70 and tied for 13th. Smith declined interview requests.
Ferguson goes wire to wire
BALLYMENA, Northern Ireland — Ewen Ferguson of Scotland captured the second title of his rookie season on the European Tour by winning the ISPS Handa World Invitational by three shots.
Ferguson closed with a one-under 69 to complete a wire-to-wire victory at Galgorm Castle, adding to his win at the Qatar Masters in March. He finished 12 under for the tournament.
In the women's event, Maja Stark of Sweden closed with a 10-under 63 for her third victory this year on the Ladies European Tour, and this one with an additional perk.
The tournament is co-sanctioned with the LPGA Tour, giving the former Oklahoma State star access to join the LPGA.
Stark started the final round two shots behind Amanda Doherty and quickly seized control with a 31 on the front nine at Galgorm Castle. She had nine birdies through 14 holes and turned a tight race into a rout.
Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Boeing Classic for his third PGA Tour Champions victory of the season, closing with a five-under 67 to hold off David McKenzie by two strokes in Snoqualmie, Wash. ... Saki Baba routed Monet Chun of Canada 11 and 9 to become the second Japanese winner in U.S. Women’s Amateur history. The 17-year-old Baba won the last six holes, ending the match with a birdie on the par-three 27th hole at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.