Two closing birdies has delivered Lucas Herbert his best result in a major and a guaranteed place in the field at next year’s US PGA Championship.
Herbert (71) and world No.4 Cameron Smith (69) ended a gruelling week at Southern Hills Country Club with the shared honour of being the best of the Aussies, their tie for 13th at even par enough to be exempt into the 2023 championship at Oak Hill Country Club in New York.
A dramatic collapse by Chilean Mito Pereira on the 72nd hole saw 2017 champion Justin Thomas and Will Zalatoris finish level at five-under par and force a three-hole aggregate playoff.
The pair traded birdies at the par-5 13th before Thomas took a stranglehold with a superb tee shot that found the green at the short par-4 17th, his subsequent two-putt birdie providing a one-shot buffer heading to the 18th.
Seven shots back at the start of the day and trailing by eight early in his final round, another blistered tee shot at 18 and 9-iron to the back part of the green gave Thomas two putts to complete a historic championship triumph and second major title.
Starting the final round in a tie for 10th, Herbert edged his way up the leaderboard with early birdies at one and four, putts from 15 and 12 feet respectively providing at least a glimpse of the top of the leaderboard.
The 26-year-old made the turn at three-under for the championship but bogeys at 11, 12 and 14 and a double bogey at the par-4 16th saw Herbert drop outside the top 20.
With the lure of the top 15 exemption for the following year, Herbert got up-and-down from right of the 17th green to make birdie and then hit his approach shot from 210 yards into just seven feet at 18 for the birdie that pushed him back into the top 15.
The tie for 13th bettered Herbert’s previous best finish in a major – T31 at 2020 US Open – and continues his upward trajectory in the game’s showpiece events.
Like Herbert, Smith made birdies early as he sought to advance his position on Sunday.
A wedge to six feet set up birdie at four and he followed that with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 fifth.
There were further birdies at 10 and 17 along with bogeys at seven, 11 and 15 as the 28-year-old completed the seventh top-20 finish in a major in his career and his highest finish in a US PGA Championship.
Marc Leishman produced his best round for the week – a two-under 68 – to climb 21 spots into a tie for 34th with Cam Davis (T48, 70) adding to his bank of major experience and 2015 champion Jason Day (T55, 73) continuing his comeback.
Following three straight rounds of even par 70 it was a difficult finish for Kiwi Ryan Fox, who closed with a seven-over 77 to end the week in 54th position.
US PGA Championship
Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Winner Justin Thomas 67-67-74-67—275
Won in three-hole aggregate playoff
T13 Cameron Smith 68-70-73-69—280
T13 Lucas Herbert 68-73-68-71—280
T34 Marc Leishman 72-71-73-68—284
T48 Cam Davis 72-72-72-70—286
54 Ryan Fox 70-70-70-77—287
T55 Jason Day 71-72-72-73—288
MC Min Woo Lee 73-72—145
MC Adam Scott 77-70—147
MC Matt Jones 73-77—150