2022 PGA Championship Rankings Breakdown: Will Zatoris Leads With Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy Threatens


2022 PGA Championship Rankings Breakdown: Will Zatoris Leads With Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy Threatens

Fierce winds in Oklahoma eased on Friday afternoon, giving players a chance to put their stamp on the 104th PGA Championship. Will Zalatoris was the man who rose to the challenge as the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year threw dart after dart at Southern Hills and took his name to the top of the rankings in the second Major of the year.

With card rounds of 66-65, Zlatoris finds himself at 9 under and has once again played his way into the competition in a Major. The 25-year-old, who is still looking for his first career win, will have his work to do as plenty of big names, big champions and wily veterans wait in the shallows for his moment to slip. The good news? All seven grand winners at Southern Hills are leading or co-leaders after 36 holes, as is Zlatoris this year.

Among those looking to run over him is Justin Thomas, who nailed the morning’s performance on the second lap. The 2017 PGA Championship winner, one of two names in the top 10 who played off the tougher tee time, is looking to lift a trophy for the first time in over a year. Thomas’ game has been trending for almost three months, and so has Rory McIlroy, the first round leader. Unable to continue his first 5-under-65 success, the 33-year-old now finds himself five shots behind Zatoris’ lead, but not without a chance to capture his fifth Major title of his career.

There is still a lot to do and that is exactly what we intend to do. Below is an overview of the leaderboard as it stands after Round 2.

1. Will Zalatoris (-9): Peas and carrots. Peanut Butter and Jelly. Will Zalatoris and big championship conditions. The Wake Forest product has excelled in its young career on golf’s biggest stage, boasting four top 10 finishes in just seven starts. He seems well on his way to increasing that total, and in a serious way. Zlatoris always hits the ball, good and this week the putter decided to cooperate and he leads the field in strokes won while putting. He’s 18 for 18 on putts within 10 feet so far in this tournament. Weekends at majors are very different things, so if the jitters creep in, it’s likely to show on the greens.

2. Mito Pereira (-8): There are a number of parallels between Zalatoris and Pereira. Their statistical profiles are eerily similar and neither has won on the PGA Tour, despite a number of close encounters to name a few. The Chilean was a Battlefield mover from the Korn Ferry Tour last summer and seems comfortable in his PGA Championship debut. In his second major championship start, Pereira fired a 6-under 64 and will have the final start time alongside Zatoris on Saturday.

3. Justin Thomas (-6): It was an impressive first two days for Thomas, who carded nine birdies against just three bogeys. His 67 on round two will get all the hype, and rightly so, but I can’t help but return to his 18th hole on Thursday. Thomas stole a shot down the field with a birdie on the difficult par 4 and rode that late swing into one of Friday morning’s rounds. He’s been open about wanting to add another major championship to his résumé for the past half decade, and now he’s working his way within reach of his second Wanamaker Trophy.

4. Bubba Watson (-5): The round of the championship belongs to the two-time Masters champion as Watson came out with a career-best nine birdies in a big round on Friday afternoon. Watson signed for a 7-under 63 and not only matched the course record set by Tiger Woods and Raymond Floyd but, importantly, played his way back into contention after a disappointing first round with 2 overs. On a course that demands creativity and quick wit, should we really be surprised that Watson finds his name on the front page of the leaderboard?

T5. Rory McIlroy, Abraham Ancer and Davis Riley (-4): McIlroy was on the better end of the weather draw so his second round 1 over is all the more disappointing. Still, the four-time major champion is in the middle of it despite his problems on Friday. He kept pushing the ball like a stallion, but the iron game and putter let him down as he couldn’t gather momentum.

T8. Matt Fitzpatrick and Stewart Cink (-3): Cink infamously missed a short bogey putt on the 72nd hole of the 2001 US Open to be eliminated from a playoff involving Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks. Now, 21 years later, the 49-year-old is back in the hunt for Southern Hills and is the likeliest candidate to follow in the unlikely footsteps of Phil Mickelson from a year ago.

T10. Cameron Smith, Sam Burns and five others (-2): This is probably the furthest I would go to find a potential winner as this is a group that packs a lot of firepower. Burns made a strong push up the leaderboard on Friday with a round of 3 under alongside Cameron Young, who has posted identical rounds 71-67.

T30. Jordan Spieth and 10 others (+1): The Grand Slam dream is technically still alive, no matter how weak the heartbeat might be. Spieth will look back on his opening lap with disdain as he just couldn’t do anything on the greens. He put up a brave fight on Friday, but barring something catastrophic from happening to the leaders, he’ll have to wait until next year’s PGA Championship for another chance to join golf’s elite.

T53. Tiger Woods and 10 others (+3): There’s something about a 46-year-old 15-time major champion running late on a Friday to make the cut that’s satisfying to watch. Outside of the par-3 11, Woods looked strong en route to his 1-under-69, even beating his playing rival McIlroy. His body must be hurting but I like to think he’ll put in a better weekend performance compared to Masters 2022.

Rick Gehman, Jonathan Coachman and Greg DuCharme recap Friday’s action at the PGA Championship. Follow and listen to The First Cut Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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