Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Justin Thomas won the PGA Championship in a playoff over Will Zalatoris that was mandated after leader Mito Pereira double bogeyed the 72nd hole and fell to third place. What was your take on the final outcome of the tourney?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Good for JT, who seems like a nice, solid guy. Too bad for Zalatoris, who also seems like a decent fellow, and was a good sport in defeat. But just heartbreaking for Pereira, who did what all of us have done in competition – even over a two-dollar Nassau: just flat-out choke. I hope this doesn’t have a long-term effect on the guy. Otherwise, it was a pretty good tournament, even if most of the usual suspects didn’t really pose much of a threat. I was pulling for McIlroy, but jeez he has an ability to fade in the stretch.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: That’s why they are called ‘Majors’. It’s because it takes a major league performance to win them over the full 72 holes (or more). When Nick Faldo asked Ben Hogan “What do I have to do to win the US Open”? Hogan replied, “Shoot the lowest score”. First was the upset in the Kentucky Derby and now Thomas comes from miles back to race through the tape. Zalatoris sure looks good for a future pick though.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Well, unfortunately it seemed like Mito’s collapse was inevitable. He was holding on for dear life all day and played great given the circumstances. It was just a great round by JT and solid back 9 by Zalatoris that kept Mito from winning, which would have been a great story. It was an exciting finish that made for an interesting “least-interesting” major. The course held up as a tough championship venue and made guys golf their balls on Sunday to have a chance to win. I think the outcome was, I guess, appropriate.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Heartbreaking. Brings to mind Jean Van de Velde at the Open Championship making bad decisions and poor swings to surrender a title he had in the bag. Or Phil Mickelson at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Funny what pressure and inexperience can do to an otherwise solid golf game. JT did what he had to do and reaped the benefit but this one was lost by others.
Southern Hills was touted as a tough but fair course for a major championship. Some players slammed it as being unfair or too tough while others had record low scores. What did you think of the golf course?
Deeks: I thought the golf course looked great. It’s a funny coincidence, isn’t it, how the guys who score the worst slam the course, while the guys who play better think it’s tough-but-fair? I’m sure if I tried to play Southern Hills from the tips, I’d be lucky to break 200, but I still think I’d enjoy the experience.
Schurman: I thought “These guys are good” was a slogan used by the PGA TOUR. In the great words of Sandy Tatum when speaking about the difficulty of the US Open course when he said, “We aren’t trying to embarrass the best players, just identify them”. What we saw was the fact that modern equipment allows for a lack of creativity. The ball goes too far and too straight. Suddenly, when faced with having to create shots and actually ‘play’ a course, some of the top players couldn’t do it. Shotmakers like Thomas, Zalatoris and Bubba Watson seemed to perform well enough. BTW Green speeds were only 10 not the normal 12 to 13 seen in most majors. Imagine the comments if the greens were at those levels.
Rule: I thought it held up well as a championship venue. The fairways were wide, allowing guys to let loose for the most part, and I thought that the setup was good. They shortened a few holes on the weekend to make them more interesting, bringing in to play a wide range of scores on those holes. For those players that thought it was too tough, all I say is boo hoo. The winning score was 5 under and the cut was +4, sounds pretty reasonable to me.
Mumford: The course has proven itself a worthy major championship venue in the past and the Gil Hanse tweaks only made it better. Criticism from a couple of players was out of frustration about the weather as much as their own inability to post better scores. The course was very fair. If the wind had died down and the temperature warmed up, we might have seen record low scores. Even in brutal conditions, several players managed to take it low. I think the set-up was solid too, especially a couple of par-4s that were driveable when the tees were moved up.
During the tournament, several big names (Scottie Scheffler, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay) missed the cut and some former major winners (Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson) had time on the leaderboard but eventually left emptyhanded; Tiger Woods withdrew after the third round; and the weather was pretty brutal. Apart from JT’s win and Mito’s collapse, what was your favourite storyline from the PGA Championship?
Deeks: The lack of Phil Mickelson. I hate to kick a guy when he’s down, but he’s down for several reasons, and I can’t say I missed his presence at all. Despite Mito’s collapse on the 72nd hole, I thought his potential Cinderella story through the weekend was very compelling, and the little-known friendship between Mito and Joaquin Niemann was quite lovely. Watching Joaquin watching his pal’s collapse on 18 was cringeworthy.
Schurman: There was more confusion, disorientation and discombobulating than in any event I have ever followed. Episode #10,856 in the Tiger Woods saga, the ‘real’ Mickelson has stood up, Nicklaus narrowly missing the Saudi mess (maybe), a leaderboard that only made sense after round one when Rory finally shot a low first round and some of the worst TV coverage on TSN of all-time. Other than that, not much happened.
Rule: I liked that there were new names on a major leaderboard, guys putting themselves in a position to change their lives. It was a great win by JT but it doesn’t materially change his life. But if Mito or Zalatoris or even Fitzpatrick were to win, it would have been career changing. That was fun to see…until the very end. The tournament was more fun for me to watch than previous PGA’s, perhaps because of where it now lies in the schedule. It made me more excited to watch the US Open!
Mumford: Two things: Will Zalatoris and Mito Pereira are major talents, exciting to watch and both should certainly break into the winner’s circle soon. Also, as I watched the telecast on Sunday afternoon in particular, LIV Golf kept popping into my mind – not that anybody at CBS was talking about it. The first LIV Golf event will be played in London the week before the U.S. Open, so some of the players we saw on the leaderboard at Southern Hills may be playing their next major with a huge black cloud over their head, if in fact they’re allowed to play at all. Those players that choose to defy the PGA Tour ban and play in London will also not be part of the regular Tour moving forward, which means some defending champions and past champions will no longer be welcome, some of the current elite players won’t be around either. Pro golf is about to change dramatically but you’d never know it by watching the CBS announcers, who have their heads in the sand as usual and are pretending everything is normal.