TULSA, Oklahoma — Justin Thomas became a major champion when he least expected it.

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Thomas matched Sunday’s PGA championship record when he rallied from a seven-shooting deficit in the South Hills and then saved his most exquisite shot for a three-hole playoff to defeat Will Zalatoris.

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It closed with a 3-67 record, matching a poor final round record that was hampered more by nerves than wind. He seized control in the playoffs by hitting 3 woods at 35 feet on the 17th hole for 301 yards, making a two-hit birdie.

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He tapped on parity and straightened up with a smile, a mixture of joy and incredulity.

“At the beginning of the week, I was asked what kind of lead is safe, and I answered: “No lead,” Thomas said. “I can’t believe I made the playoffs.”

There hasn’t been a major playoff since the 2017 Masters, when Sergio Garcia defeated Justin Rose. 19 consecutive Majors without playoffs became the longest streak in major championship history.

Thomas needed a lot of help, and Mito Pereira provided it with a confusing blow. The 27-year-old from Chile, playing only his second major, took the lead to the final hole and drove into the creek to make a double ghost.

This was the first time since Winged Foot’s Phil Mickelson at the 2006 US Open that a player lost a one-shot lead on the last hole and lost a major.

Zalatoris looked like he’d missed his first major — and first PGA Tour 00 win — when he hit three stalemates from just 20 feet on the 16th hole. But he responded with a birdie from the bunker on the 17th and hit an 8-footer on the 18th for 71.

He joined Thomas at 5-275 and they continued to play when Pereira hesitated. Thomas went 14 months without a win against The Players Championship last year. He now has a couple of PGA titles on his 15 career wins.

John Mahaffey at the 1978 PGA Championship at Oakmont was another player seven shots behind on the final day. He also won in the playoffs over Tom Watson and Jerry Pate.

Thomas closed 14-1 to win the PGA Championship at Caesars Sportsbook. His chances of reaching the final round on Sunday were 28-1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.