A British golfer had a great early stage in the PGA Championship. “Long Jim” Barnes, who immigrated to the United States from Cornwall, won the event – then as a match play – in 1916 and 1919. In the two years in between, it did not participate.
Shockingly, in more than a century, the flag of St. George has not been next to the American PGA champion. So history won’t be on Matt Fitzpatrick’s side on Day 4 of South Hills, but it will determine how important the Yorkshireman’s success is.
Fitzpatrick’s third-round 67 represented his firm intentions at a venue he didn’t feel was right for his game when he first watched it.
It is an expression of courage and determination. Fitzpatrick made bogeys on the first two holes, then steadied himself and turned to par. With a birdie on the 13th hole, Fitzpatrick was under par on the day — a strong enough position — and made great birdies in each of the last two events. Fitzpatrick was 6 under for a three-shot lead, with Mito Pereira holding an incredible advantage. More of him later.
“With my start, it’s easy to get away from me,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m very proud of the way I countered and didn’t really let it bother me. I’d love to go back and tee off now if I could.”
World No. 100 Pereira had only played one Grand Slam before that. He missed the cut. The Chilean refused to give up his tilt to the Wanamaker Trophy. Pereira would be an extraordinary winner; he even gave up golf for two years as a teenager because the sport bore him. He finished the third round with a birdie for a 69. It marked his highest score in the tournament.
Will Zalatoris had a terrible front nine, which he hit at 39, but has since regained his footing. His 73 meant he tied Fitzpatrick. However, the latter will share the final group with Pereira. Cameron Young was 5 under, ahead of Abraham Ancer. Justin Thomas made a bogey on No. 18 and slipped to minus two.
Rory McIlroy started Day 3 with a five-point lead. He made a double bogey when he found water on the par-3 6th and conceded further shots on the 7th and 8th. McIlroy quickly pulled himself out of the tournament. He then birdied the ninth hole and made a horrific triple-bogey six on the 11th.
If it seemed safe to discount McIlroy now, he picked up a shot on the 13th and teeed off the next par 3 just inches from the tee. A missed opportunity from 8 feet on No. 15 looked stinging, but he bounced back with a birdie from 25 feet on No. 16. It stabbed him one last time. McIlroy’s final three-putt bogey 5 brought him back to par. How he will regret missing five shots on two third-round 3-pointers.
Seamus Power kicks off practice rounds this week with McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and Sean Lowry. It would not be disrespectful to suggest that Power would hardly be famous alongside the sporting royals of the Isle of Ireland. Bowler, two years older than McIlroy, can now join his friends in a major win after a 67 that pushed him to 3 under. Power covered his final seven holes of the third round with a minus-four.
“Obviously I’m going out a little bit before any of the leaders,” he said. “If I could have made a few birdies earlier, it would have made a world of difference.
“For me, it’s just doing a lot of the same thing, and then you need to take a break to go your own way. Maybe be a 35- to 40-footer, or a little chip.”
Webb Simpson made the cut with just one shot before hitting a third-round 65 in wet, cool conditions. Simpson is now one shot behind. “Today was a mental and physical test,” Simpson said. Fitzpatrick seems to be enjoying the psychological warfare. Barnes died in 1966; the running distance associated with him is less than 18 holes in Tulsa, which will be broken in 2022.