Coming into the final day, world number 100 Pereira had a three shot lead ahead of Matt Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris. And the Chilean, who was hoping to win a major in just his second appearance, hung onto that lead until the final hole.
At that point, his lead had been whittled down to just one shot by Thomas and Zalatoris, who both finished strongly. And Pereira made the crucial error of pulling out the driver on the 18th when a three wood or even a long iron would have been better suited.
The 27-year-old promptly sliced his drive and found the water, making a double bogey and ultimately finishing tied for third with Cameron Young on four under par as his hopes of victory perished in the most dramatic. And Thomas was the ultimate beneficiary from Pereira’s disastrous finish, capitalising to beat Zalatoris in the three-hole play-off.
Thomas, who won the PGA Championship back in 2017, mounted an impressive charge in the final round after a poor display on Saturday had seen him drop down the leaderboard. He began the event with back-to-back 67s on Thursday and Friday, before a 74 on Saturday dented his chances.
However, having begun the day seven shots off the lead, another impressive 67 saw Thomas finish five under par and earned him a spot in the play-off. Zalatoris, meanwhile, shot 71 in the final round to join Thomas on five under par, with his impressive performance including an amazing bogey after he got into some trouble on the sixth hole.
The American overhit his shot into the bushes and decided to take an unplayable, before hitting a brilliant shot off the concrete cart path to escape with a bogey. And the play-off ended with Thomas winning his second ever major after a three-hole aggregate play-off on holes 13, 17 and 18.
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They both birdied on the 13th, before Thomas took a one shot lead with a birdie on the 17th. And Thomas birdied again on the 18th to complete a dramatic victory.
Reflecting on his victory, Thomas said: “It was a bizarre day. I definitely crossed one off the list – I’ve never won the tournament shanking the ball on Sunday, so that was a first and I would really like it to be a last.
“Bones [Thomas’ caddie Jim Mackay] did an unbelievable job of just keeping me in the moment today. This place is so tough. I was asked earlier in the week about what lead is safe and I said, ‘no lead’.
“This place is so tough but if you hit the fairways you can make birdies. I stayed so patient and I just couldn’t believe I found myself in a play-off.”
Speaking to Sky Sports, Zalatoris said: “I’m proud of the way I fought. JT went out and got it in the play-off. I didn’t have my best stuff yesterday which was the difference in the end, but I’m gonna get one soon! I’ve been knocking at the door in these majors for a while and one’s gonna come soon!”
Young, meanwhile, was in the hunt after beginning the day four shots off the lead and narrowed that down to just one, ultimately finishing third alongside Pereira. Fitzpatrick, however, fell down the leaderboard with a 73 shot final round that saw him finish three under par.
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That left him tied for fifth place with Tommy Fleetwood, who enjoyed a strong finish as he struck a 67, his best round of the tournament. “I’m going to be happy wherever I finish,” Fleetwood said. “I’ve never thought it was enough but it was great to have what’s going to be best result of the year so far in a major.”
Rory McIlroy did mount a strong early comeback with a four-birdie run that saw him briefly surge back into contention, but he had ultimately left himself with too much to do as his eight-year run without a major win continued.
McIlroy had the lead after round one when he shot a 65, but dropped off as he followed it up with rounds of 71 and 74. His 68 in the final round was a good performance, but only enough to see him finish eighth.