Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, OK — May 22, 2022
Starting the final round of a major championship with a three-stroke lead does not assure a victory at the end of the day. But, it does provide some breathing room when the pressure of the moment settles in. Mito Pereira, who had never won on the PGA Tour, was glad to take that advantage to the first tee at Southern Hills Country Club.
The 2022 PGA Championship was his to win or lose as his competitors had to fashion a spectacular round under the same pressure or Pereira would give away strokes and fall back within their reach.
The Early Movers
Five players started the day within five strokes of the lead. Rory McIlroy became the sixth to reach that position with four straight birdies on holes two through six. A bogey on the par-three seventh stopped the string and dropped him back to three-under-par for the tournament trailing the leader by six.
|POS||NAME||TO PAR||ROUND 1||ROUND 2||ROUND 3||TOTAL|
The top of the leaderboard after three rounds of the 2022 PGA Championship
Matthew Fitzpatrick, Cameron Young, and Abraham Ancer all made bogey on the first hole making their task even tougher. Pereira made bogey on the third hole but quickly recovered with a birdie on the 656-yard monster par-five, fifth hole.
Will Zalatoris was the only member of the top five to hold serve as he made par on the first three holes and then carded birdies on holes four and five to pull within a stroke of Pereira.
Unfortunately, Zalatoris’s tee shot on the par-three sixth found the trees to the far right of the green. He had to take an unplayable lie and during 15 minutes of conversation with the rules official took a drop on the cart path that left him with a television tower between his ball and the pin. Then taking relief, two club-lengths, left him on the concrete path for his third shot.
With perfect execution, Zalatoris chipped onto the green and sunk an eight-foot putt to get away with just a bogey. The ordeal may have rattled him as another bogey followed on the seventh hole and Zalatoris was back to where he started at six-under. He overshot the eighth green, left his chip short, but saved par when his putt curled into the hole on the last rotation of the ball.
Closing Out the Front Nine
McIlroy finished the front nine with three straight pars and then made seven more after making the turn onto the back nine. A bogey on 17 cost him an opportunity to put a competitive number on the board as the leader in the clubhouse. A par on 18 closed his tournament at two-under-par.
Bogeys on seven and eight brought Pereira back within reach of a number of players as he finished nine at two-over-par for the day and seven-under with nine holes to go. Young and Zalatoris stood at six-under after their opening nines.
Playing ahead of the leaders, Justin Thomas shot even-par on his opening nine and then birdied two of the first three holes on the backside of the course to pull to within three strokes of the lead at four-under.
Down the Stretch
Zalatoris made bogey on 12 and 16 to drop to four-under-par. A birdie on 17 brought him into the clubhouse at five-under. Thomas also made a birdie on 17 to join Zalatoris as the leaders in the clubhouse while Pereira struggled to finish his round.
A bogey on the 12th hole to fall back to six-under put Pereira in danger. He responded with a birdie on the 13 to go back up by two. Then another bogey on 14 and the pressure was intense.
Two pars bought the leader to 17, a potential birdie hole. On the green in two, Pereira was looking at a 12-foot birdie put to some open space between himself and his pursuers heading to the 18th. The putt hug on the lip of the cup, a half turn from finding the bottom of the cup.
Standing on the 18th tee Pereira needed a par to walk off the green with the Wanamaker Trophy in his grasp. He yanked his drive to the right side of the fairway and found the water, his ball landing in the creek running the length of the fairway.
Unable to play the ball, Pereira was forced to take a penalty stroke and drop outside the hazard. Facing a difficult third shot to the green it will take an unbelievable effort to make par. Pereira missed the green to the left and caught a horrible break with his ball buried deep in the greenside rough. Needing an up and down just to make it to a three-way playoff for the title.
The most important shot of Pereira’s life came out high of the hole and rolled off the opposite side of the green. A desperate putt in an attempt to save his bogey came up short and suddenly Thomas and Zalatoris were in a playoff to see which of them would claim the title of PGA champion. Thomas came from seven strokes off the lead to make it to extra holes.
To win the Championship the two survivors will play three holes with the aggregate score determining the winner. The 13th, 17th, and 18th make up the trio of holes that are to be played.
Off the 13th tee, a par-five, Thomas drove into the right rough and Zalatoris landed in the middle of the fairway. Thomas laid up just short of the water in front of the green. Zalatoris hit an iron to the left of the pin, leaving a 35-foot putt for eagle. Thomas dropped his approach six feet below the hole. Two putts for a birdie by Zalatoris left the pressure on Thomas to sink his putt. Which he did.
The short par-four 17th is almost a must-make birdie hole. Both players are capable of driving the green. Thomas landed on the putting surface, Zalatoris missed pin high right of the greenside bunker. Zalatoris failed to convert after chipping to 10 feet of the pin, two-putting for par. Thomas lagged his eagle putt close and sunk his third taking a one-stroke lead to the final hole.
Flirting with the right side of the fairway, Thomas drive on 18 jumped straight, and landed safely. Zalatoris followed suit. Both golfers were on the green in two with Thomas holding the advantage closer to the hole. Two pars finished the playoff with Thomas becoming the improbable winner.
Final Scores of the 2022 PGA Championship from Southern Hills Country Club
|T48||Harold Varner III||6||71||71||72||72||286|
|T60||Si Woo Kim||9||71||72||76||70||289|
*Winner in a three-hole playoff