TULSA, OKLAHOMA | Cinderella’s story took a dark turn on Sunday.
The PGA Championship was Mito Pereira’s to win. If his ball made one more rotation on the 17th green, he probably would have won. It didn’t, and suddenly the nerves and inexperience got the best of the young Chilean playing his first major weekend.
Pereira’s gut-wrenching double bogey on the last hole opened the door for Justin Thomas to win his second Wanamaker Trophy. A fitting champion who tied John Mahaffey’s 1978 PGA record for largest comeback to win.
Thomas did what veterans do best: play well and let others make mistakes. Pereira, playing his second major, made the most untimely double. Cameron Young, making his first major cut, made double with a share of the lead on 16. Séamus Power, making his second major start, made double early to derail his chances. Matt Fitzpatrick and Abraham Ancer, each with one lone top-10 to their names in majors, shot 73s and never threatened.
Thomas took advantage when opportunity presented and justifiably burnished his résumé while others burned chances:
BIRDIE: Bones Mackay. Justin Thomas’ caddie gave his man an earful on Saturday night to settle him down and instill an uncharacteristic patience that ultimately served him well. There’s something to be said for a seasoned sidekick.
BOGEY: Matt Fitzpatrick. The most experienced player among the top six after 54 holes, the Englishman was a non-factor in the final pairing on Sunday, shooting 73 and finishing fifth.
BIRDIE: Mito Pereira. Yes, he made a double bogey that will probably be recalled with Jean van de Velde and Phil Mickelson in the realm of 72nd hole gaffes. But credit the young Chilean for standing up and handling it like a champ. Hopefully he’ll be one someday.
BOGEY: Rory McIlroy. Typically a media darling, McIlroy refused to talk on the weekend after spitting away a golden opportunity. He had no good excuses. After a brilliant 65 start he failed to capitalize on a perfect draw and a vulnerable leaderboard. He was one shot from the ultimate winning score with 13 holes left and never made another birdie.
PAR: John Daly. Tooling around in his golf cart, Daly was among the leaders at 2 under through 13 holes in the opening round. But cigarettes and diet sodas can only sustain a 60-year-old’s efforts so long, even if he doesn’t have to walk like everyone else.
BIRDIE: Will Zalatoris. The self-proclaimed “majors specialist” hung in there and earned a place in the playoff. He’s been runner-up in the Masters and PGA and has finished top-10 in all five majors he’s finished. “I know I’m going to get one. Just a matter of time,” he said.
BOGEY: Jordan Spieth. Mixing a pair of 69s with two over-par rounds is not a recipe for completing the career slam. On to Oak Hill for his next opportunity.
BIRDIE: Wake Forest. The golf factory that produced major champions Arnold Palmer, Curtis Strange, Lanny Wadkins and Webb Simpson had a good chance to get another with teammates Zalatoris and Cameron Young paired in the penultimate group. Each held a late share of the lead.
BOGEY: Richard Bland. After Blandy, 49, said he’d risk banishment and play the LIV Golf Series opener, he caught a tough break at Southern Hills when a squirrel stopped his ball from getting on the green en route to a missed cut. Coincidence?
You know it’s not going to be your week when you play a good recovery shot from under the trees & this little fella gets in the way 🐿😄 To top it off. The ball rolls back off the green & don’t get up & down 🤷🏻♂️😄 #sumstheweekup pic.twitter.com/fL5BASuJI9
— Richard Bland (@blandy73) May 21, 2022
BOGEY: Scottie Scheffler. You really can’t win them all. Missing the cut at purportedly one of his favorite courses proves the new No.1 is mortal after all.
BIRDIE: Bubba Watson. Joining Raymond Floyd (1982) and Tiger Woods (2007) in shooting 63 at Southern Hills, Watson made nine birdies and two bogeys. He missed one fairway – intentionally: “I told (my caddie on 13) I was going to hit it in the rough because I wanted to get that out of my head. I hadn’t missed a fairway yet, and I didn’t want to go to 17 or 18 having a chance to hit every fairway.”
BOGEY: PC & DJ. Scheff wasn’t alone among prominent names heading home early. No. 5 Patrick Cantlay made only two birdies and 13 bogeys. Former No.1 Dustin Johnson made another quiet MC, but not without Paulina releasing a video of their “royal” wedding last month.
BIRDIE: Rickie Fowler. “Do I currently think that the PGA Tour is the best place to play? I do. Do I think it can be better? Yes.” Whether or not you like his position regarding the rival LIV Golf series, the fact Rickie departed from his media-trained blandness was notable. He then finished T23 but has no more eligibility in majors.
DQ: $19th Hole. There was much outrage over the outrageous cost for 25 ounces of beer – $19 for Stella Artois or $18 Michelob Ultra – at Southern Hills. But perhaps they’ve stumbled onto a solution to the rowdiness issues that plague the WM Phoenix Open.
BIRDIE: Stewart Cink. Twenty-one years after his putting gaffe on the 72nd green cost him a spot in an 18-hole playoff at the 2001 U.S. Open, Cink was among the leaders again at Southern Hills on Sunday while Retief Goosen, Mark Brooks and their matching white shirt/khaki pants were nowhere to be found.
BIRDIE: Southern Hills. The Gil en-Hanse-d Perry Maxwell gem was a massive upgrade as replacement for the previously scheduled venue. Tulsa in May is also a dramatic improvement to the 100-degree saunas we experienced in June 2001 and August 2007.
EAGLE: Jesse Mueller. Like the rest of his club-pro brethren, the Grand Canyon University volunteer assistant golf coach missed the cut. However, Mueller briefly led the field in strokes gained everything when he holed out for eagle on his first hole. “What a start to my first-ever PGA Championship,” he said. “Pretty amazing.”
BIRDIE: Brooks Koepka. In the worst of the winds, Koepka fought back from an opening 75 with a second-round 67. Credit to him for not mailing it in after shooting 40 on his first nine holes.
BIRDIE: Aaron Wise. Despite getting beaned in the head and left dizzy for 20 seconds by Cam Smith’s errant drive from the adjacent second hole, Wise saved par on 7 (as did Smith, never realizing what happened, on 2) and seemed “normal” after a post-round trip to medical services. Smith’s ball left a red ball mark on Wise’s cap. “It was loud,” Joel Dahmen said of the impact.
FORE! Dave Stockton. The 1970 PGA champ at Southern Hills attended the annual champions dinner and at 80 years old didn’t hold back on his thoughts about Phil Mickelson’s absence: “Phil was not missed. I think Phil would have been a big distraction (if) he was here. The story here this week is the PGA.”
WD: Sage Steele. ESPN SportsCenter anchor was struck in the face by a 181-mph hooked Jon Rahm drive on the third hole Thursday, the contact so hard his ball ended up in the center of the fairway. She reportedly left the course “covered in blood” and had to be hospitalized briefly before returning home. Rahm yelled “Fore left!” and waved his arms wildly but was never made aware it hit anyone.
BOGEY: Tyrrell Hatton. The mouth of Marlow, England, grumbled about Augusta being “unfair at times” last month. At the PGA, he complained about greens not being mown to avoid wind-blown chaos: “We’re playing a major championship, not a monthly medal. They’re bobbling all over the place.”
BIRDIE: Rich Beem. Amidst the sea of courtesy Cadillac Escalades strewn through the contestants’ parking lot, Beemer’s Beemer was parked in his reserved spot. The 2002 champ drove his own swanky car up from his home in Texas.
BOGEY: Renaissance coffee. The staff in the media hotel had to apologize on Monday night for having run out of coffee due to an Alcoholics Anonymous convention over the weekend that depleted its entire stock. It apparently really was good to the last drop.
BIRDIE: Oak Hill. With the move to May, next year’s PGA in Rochester has had many concerned about the early spring weather in upstate New York. This week’s high temps ranged from 61 to 86 degrees there. This week last year ranged from 71 to 90. The average high projected for 2023 dates is 69 to 71.
Top: Justin Thomas and Jim Mackay
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