Justin Thomas is a major champion when he least expected it.
Thomas matched a PGA Championship record on Sunday when he rallied from a seven-shot deficit at Southern Hills, and then he saved his most exquisite shot-making for a three-hole playoff to defeat Will Zalatoris.
Thomas closed with a 3-under 67, matching the low score of a final round made difficult more by nerves than the wind. He seized control in the playoff with a 3-wood to 35 feet on the 301-yard 17th hole for a two-putt birdie.
He tapped in for par and stood erect with a smile, a mixture of joy and disbelief.
“I was asked early in the week what lead is safe, and I said, ‘No lead,”’ Thomas said. “I can’t believe I found myself in a playoff.”
There had not been a playoff in a major since the 2017 Masters, when Sergio Garcia beat Justin Rose. The 19 straight majors without a playoff was the longest streak in major championship history.
Thomas needed plenty of help, and Mito Pereira provided it in a deflating finish. The 27-year-old from Chile, playing in only his second major, took a one-shot lead to the final hole and drove into a creek to make double bogey.