Sunday at the 104th PGA Championship had just about all the drama one could ask for — inexperienced Cinderella upstart contenders, Rory’s early move, a big-name coming from behind and a stunning collapse on the 72nd hole.
This one will be hard to beat with two more to go. So we’ll take a quick look back with some notes on what transpired during that frenzied final round that saw Justin Thomas come from a history-equaling seven shots back to capture his second Wanamaker trophy.
The most talked about single moment was Mito Pereira’s disaster of a tee shot at the 72nd hole but Mito hurt his chances of winning a major championship long before that moment.
Here’s a few examples:
He missed a six-footer for par at the third hole.
He missed a nine-foot birdie putt at the fourth.
He was fortunate to make scrambling par saves at nine, 10 and 11 — he was leaking oil by then. He finally paid the price when he missed a seven-footer for par at the 12th. So obviously he was struggling early and often. Truth be known, his birdie putt at the 17th needed about an eighth of a turn to fall in the hole. Had that putt dropped, the two-shot lead going to 18 tee might have gone a long way toward relaxing his state of mind.
A few final thoughts from Mito: “I thought I was going to win. You’re in such a stressful situation that everything can change. I don’t know what happened.”
It was still a career-changing week for Pereira. He’s now ranked 49th in the world. That gets him into the WGC events. His finish also earned him exemptions into all the majors for the next five years. The finish guaranteed his PGA Tour card for the next five years and he has full membership on the DP World (European) Tour for the next seven years. So that closing double that cost him the championship wasn’t all that horrible.
Cameron Young — Rookie Of The Year?
All those things Mito got, Cameron Young earned. The five-year PGA Tour exemption is a biggie. The exemptions into the majors are huge. It was Young’s fifth top three finish this season — he’s looking like a shoe-in for PGA Tour Rookie Of The Year.
Will Zalatoris — A Nice Major Career Already:
Will Zalatoris had his putting issues over the weekend, he looked nothing like he did the first two rounds. But he did make big putts at 17 and 18 to get into the playoff with J.T.
“Those are putts that you keep in the memory bank for the future,” he said. He didn’t mess up the playoff but he will think back on the missed four-footer at the 16th as perhaps the putt that cost him a major championship. How’s this for his major record: MC, T6, 2nd, T8, MC, WD, T6, 2nd.
J.T. Has A Hall Of Fame Career — Already:
Justin Thomas is the sixth player in the modern era with two majors and 15 Tour wins before reaching the age of 30. Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are the others who have accomplished that. Pretty strong company.
The J.T./Bones Alliance Pays Dividends:
Justin Thomas perked up when Phil Mickelson parted ways with Jim (Bones) Mackay. It was shortly after the last Ryder Cup when J.T. called Bones and proposed the partnership. Easy decision for Bones, who was settling in nicely to a post-caddie career with NBC and The Golf Channel. Bones was a really good on-course commentator.
Thomas gave Bones a lot of credit after the win on Sunday:
“I’m fully confident in saying that I wouldn’t be standing here if he didn’t give me that, wasn’t necessarily a speech, but a talk, if you will,” Thomas said referring to a heart-to-heart Bones gave him after J.T.’s 74 on Saturday. “I just needed to let some steam out. I didn’t need to bring my frustration and anger home with me. I didn’t need to leave the golf course in a negative frame of mind. I just went down, ‘I played pretty well yesterday for shooting four-over, and I felt like I’d played terrible.’ And he was just like, ‘Dude, you’ve got to be stop being so hard on yourself. You’re in contention every single week we’re playing.’”
Bones continued: “It’s a major championship. You don’t have to be perfect. Just don’t be hard on yourself. Just kind of let stuff happen, and everything is trending in the right direction. So just keep staying positive so that good stuff can happen.”
“I left here in an awesome frame of mind,” Thomas said. “Bones did an unbelievable job of keeping me in the moment,” Thomas added.
Bones Finally Got What Phil Mickelson Denied Him:
It’s tradition in the world of professional golf that the flag on the 18th green goes to the winning player’s caddie.
Phil Mickelson violated that tradition and never let Bones have the flag from his major wins.
An excerpt from Alan Shipnuck’s unauthorized Mickelson biography revealed that.
Here’s the excerpt:
“Mackay understood and respected that gesture, but 19 more tour victories would follow, including four majors, and he never got to keep a single flag,” Shipnuck wrote. Quoting an associate of Mackay, Shipnuck adds: “That’s a giant fuck-you to a caddie. When Phil wins the Masters, he gets the Green Jacket, the trophy, the big check, — all the glory. He had to take the flags, too? For Phil not to follow the tradition was hugely disrespectful.”
This time, Bones finally got his victory flag.
It was long overdue.