Pereira leads PGA Championship; Woods retires at 79

TULSA, Oklahoma (AP) — Mito Pereira soared and glided through South Mountain for four hours in the cold and high winds in what he called the most blistering ride of his life at the PGA Championship on Saturday. An important round, which gave him an idea of ​​what to expect on Sunday.

Pereira surged to a five-shot lead. He nearly lost all six holes. And when the windy and unpredictable third round finally came to an end, the 27-year-old from Chile was on the cusp of fame.

He birdied three of his last six holes, the final hole from 25 feet away, which he called a bonus, which put him at 1-under 69, ahead of England’s Matt Fitzpatrick 3 with Will Zalatoris.

“It was by far the biggest tournament I’ve played, the biggest round of golf. It’s going to be bigger tomorrow,” Pereira said. “Try to keep it simple. Try to do what I’ve been doing. Try not to look at the people around me.”

His inspiration in moments like this is Tiger Woods, who won’t be around. Woods, who was severely limp in his right leg in a car accident 15 months ago, pulled out of the final round after a 79, his highest score in the PGA Championship.

This is the first time in his career that he has dropped out of the major, which is not surprising. The pain was more pronounced than at the Masters over the weekend, where he was 21 shots behind.

Pereira shot a 9-under 201 as he tries to become Chile’s first major champion and third player from South America.

If he’s inexperienced — it’s his first PGA, and only second major — then so is the player closest to him. None of the top six have ever won a major. The four leading players have yet to win on the PGA Tour, golf’s toughest tour.

Fitzpatrick birdied the final two holes for a 67, his seven European Tour victories and two Ryder Cup teams the most tested of the bunch.

Zalatoris also had a late recovery, despite his early damage. With a one-shot lead at the start of the round, Zara Torres, as always convinced that his game is fit for the toughest test, dropped four shots over seven holes and was five shots behind.

Pereira was in trouble, too, and he was helped — everyone seems to be doing it — with four bogeys in five holes around the corner. Zara Torres birdied the back nine for a 73 and was still very good.

“I’m very frustrated with the start, but I’d rather have a frustrating start and a good finish. The momentum going into tomorrow is good,” Zara Torres said.

Pereira, a rookie on the PGA Tour, is the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year. No rookie on the tour has won a major since Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA Championship.

“I was playing really well and all of a sudden I had four bogeys on five holes. It was a tough place in that moment,” he said. “But found myself at 13. Those holes were tough. I’m happy with the way I ended up playing. A birdie on the 18th was a bonus.

“I am delighted to be in this position.”

On a tough day, many others missed opportunities and the north wind made a whole difference in the race at Nanshan.

Former PGA champion Justin Thomas went 12 holes without birdie before bogeying the final hole for a 74. Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson looked shaky as usual on the greens, having made three bogeys on four holes last time for a 73. They went from the cusp of contention to seven shots behind.

Rory McIlroy played a six on the turn for 6 over — and even made a birdie — for a 74, nine behind.

Zalatoris will be in the penultimate group with Cameron Young, the son of the PGA pro, who teeed off for a 25-foot eagle on the 296-yard 17th hole. He shot a 67 and was four shots behind.

Pereira wasn’t immune to the slides either. He became the first champion to hit 10 under with a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 sixth hole, extending his lead to 5 when Zara Torres made another bogey. rod.

But then the Chilean made a bogey on the par-3 eighth, cut from the fairway and bogeyed on the ninth, dug a wedge in front of the green on the 10th, bunkered and swallowed. bogey, then crossed the 12th green for a fourth bogey in five holes.

Zara Torres briefly caught him with a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-5 13th. This only lasted as long as Pereira birdied from 18 feet, and the Chilean birdied to 6 feet with a bold ball over the edge of the bunker on the par-3 14th.

At South Hills, only 16 players were under par, including Webb Simpson. On Friday, he had to par in a bunker on the final hole to make the cut. Tied for 64th at the start of the third round, Simpson shot a 65 to move into a tie for 10th.

He is eight shots behind and doesn’t appear to be able to catch Pereira, but little is known about how he will handle the pressure of trying to win a major on Sunday.

“If you play really well in a week, you win. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time or the tenth,” Pereira said. “If you play very, very well, you have a chance.”

This is a big one.

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