2022 PGA Championship standings breakdown: Will Zalatoris leads with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy threatening

Oklahoma’s high winds eased Friday afternoon, giving players the opportunity to put their mark on the 104th PGA Championship. Will Zalatoris was the man up to the challenge as the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year threw dart after dart at Southern Hills and propelled his name to the top of the rankings for the second major of the year.

With rounds of carding 66-65, Zalatoris finds himself at 9 under and has once again played himself into contention in a major. Still looking for his first career victory, the 25-year-old will have his work cut out for him as many big names, great champions and crafty veterans wait in the shallows for the moment he gets it wrong. The good news? All seven Southern Hills winners have held the lead or co-lead after 36 holes, as has Zalatoris this year.

Among those looking to topple him is Justin Thomas, who delivered the morning performance in the second round. One of two top-10 names to have had the toughest start, the 2017 PGA Championship winner is looking to lift a trophy for the first time in over a year. Thomas’ game has been trending for almost three months, and the same can be said for first-round leader Rory McIlroy. Unable to follow his 5-under 65 opener, the 33-year-old now finds himself five strokes clear of Zalatoris, but not without a chance to claim his fifth career major title.

There are still a lot of actions to tackle and that is exactly what we plan to do. Below is an overview of the standings as they stand after round two.

1. Will Zalatoris (-9): Peas and carrots. Peanut butter and jelly. Will Zalatoris and the conditions of the major championship. The Wake Forest product has been terrific on golf’s biggest stage of his young career, with four top-10 finishes in just seven starts. He looks set to add to that total and do it in earnest. Zalatoris still hits the ball, well, and this week the putter decided to cooperate as well as he leads the pack in strokes won in putting. He’s 18-for-18 on putts from under 10 feet so far in this tournament. Weekends at the majors are entirely different animals, so if nerves seep, 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 having a number of close calls to name a few. The Chilean was a Battlefield promotion on the Korn Ferry Tour last summer and looks comfortable on his PGA Championship debut. In his second major league start, Pereira shot a 6-under 64 and will have the final tee time on Saturday alongside Zalatoris.

3. Justin Thomas (-6): The first two days were impressive for Thomas, who had nine birdies against just three bogeys. His second-round 67 will get all the hype, and deservedly so, but I can’t help but come back to his 18th hole on Thursday. Stealing a shot down the field with a birdie on the tricky par 4, Thomas capitalized on that late momentum for one of Friday morning’s rounds. He’s been outspoken over the past half-decade about wanting to add another major championship to his resume, and now he’s worked himself within reach of his second Wanamaker Trophy.

4. Bubba Watson (-5): The championship round belongs to the two-time Masters champion as Watson exited Friday afternoon with a career-high nine birdies in a major round. Signing for a 7-under 63, Watson not only equaled the course record held by Tiger Woods and Raymond Floyd, but more importantly got back into contention after a disappointing 2-over first round. On a course where creativity and shooting are required, is it really surprising that Watson finds his name on the first page of the rankings?

T5. Rory McIlroy, Abraham Ancer and Davis Riley (-4): McIlroy was in the better end of the draw, so his second-round 1 is all the more disappointing. Still, the four-time major champion is right on target despite his troubles on Friday. He continued to drive the ball like a stallion, but the iron game and putter abandoned him as he was unable to gain momentum.

T8. Matt Fitzpatrick and Stewart Cink (-3): Cink infamously missed a bogey short putt on the 72nd hole of the 2001 US Open to fall out of a playoff with 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 a year ago.

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

T30. Jordan Spieth and 10 others (+1): The Grand Slam dream is technically still alive, no matter how weak the heart rate may be. Spieth will look back on his first round with disdain as he simply couldn’t do anything on the greens. He fought back valiantly on Friday, but unless something cataclysmic happens to the executives, he’ll have to wait until next year’s PGA Championship for another shot at golf’s elite.

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

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

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