PGA pressure to bring player humanity to the fore

A few years ago, I was in a putting contest. You might not guess this, but I’m good at putting. I’m not talking about mini golf here, but also windmills, clown mouths and pirates, etc. No, I’m talking about the official putt, par 2 on every hole, no silly obstacles. Some of you may remember that the putting contest was once broadcast on TV and Billy Packer was in charge of the announcement.

Anyway, I was 16 or 17 years old and I was in two rounds of the Putting Championship and weirdly I shot a 30 in the first round (6 under!) and was actually in my division leader. It was unexpected, to say the least. It was my first game and I had a ridiculous putting style where I would stick out my left leg, kind of like a Tony Battista-esque open stance.

I can’t begin to describe the pressure I felt in the second round. It felt like a pro wrestler screaming on my back and an accordion playing polka on my chest. It’s not just putting difficulty. It’s not just breathing difficulties. I felt like my whole body was giving way, like one of those foldable wooden shoulder toys.

Needless to say, I crashed in the second round.

So yeah, I think about this Sunday as we watch a bunch of young, talented contenders trying to win the PGA Championship for the first time. It’s ugly to say the least.Chilean Mito Pereira started the day at 9 under, three shots ahead of an American (Will Zaratoris) and a Briton (Matt Fitzpatrick), Then went 5 under over another American (Cameron Young) and a Mexican (Abraham Ancer) 4 under

Combined, these five players have won — let me do some simple calculations here — well, zero Grand Slam titles. In addition, the five players also won a PGA Tour event, and that was Ancer’s win at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational last year, although to be fair, Fitzpatrick was in Europe (now DP World). ) have won seven times on the tour, and Zara Torres has competed in several majors, so they’re not exactly green.

But they are green.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to watch car wrecks, this promises to make Sunday’s TV show stand out. After all, what do you think will happen when you have five talented but no doubt panicked players trying to win a major golf tournament while cutting back on lunch?

right. This is what happened. Anser walked off the stage early, bogeyed on the first hole, and then dropped out of contention with bogeys on the 7th, 8th and 9th holes and out of the TV rotation. Heck, he’s five points behind at the start anyway, and it’s not that far off.

Only four children remain. Fitzpatrick is undoubtedly the most experienced of the four, having played in 28 majors — more than double the other three combined. He leaked a bit on the back nine and ended all hope when he bogeyed instead of birdie on the short and relatively easy par-4 17th. That was two shots between him and eventual winner Justin Thomas.

Then, when Fitzpatrick made a bogey on that hole, Pereira appeared to be over. All the while, Pereira looked surprisingly calm, considering he had never experienced anything like it. He looked so likely to be the winner that CBS asked his friend Joaquin Niemann to learn about his psychology and what the victory meant for Chile (answer: he was fearless; what it meant for Chile major).

But then Pereira made a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th, stopped half a lap from the birdie, and then held a one-shot lead on the 18th, when Pereira, who suddenly looked uneasy, quickly pushed him The tee cut into the creek, and that’s it. It’s a shame — it really was a great first-time major for him. “On Monday I just want to advance,” he would say.

Meanwhile, Will Zalatoris has made four bogeys, and frankly he needs a few small miracles to keep a few of them from getting worse. But he persevered — the guy’s main record is really impressive — and he hit a key par on the 18th to finish at 5 under, ahead of the other first-timers.

But, as you know, he didn’t win the PGA Championship.

Look, it turns out that in the far-flung, Justin Thomas — a former world No. 1, FedExCup champion who already owns a PGA Championship — is on a charge of one kind, one kind. This isn’t exactly Nicklaus at Augusta. On the sixth hole, Thomas actually hit his tee — I mean a real shank, like he dropped his club and everything and needed to make an 18-footer for a bogey.

He was par on the front nine and seemed to have no momentum. He was seven shots behind. But then he made back-to-back birdies at Nos. 11 and 12 to 4-under, and just seeing his familiar name on the leaderboard certainly changed the atmosphere.

It’s like the moment when the substitute teacher tries to put things together and then the principal walks into the classroom.

Thomas didn’t do anything special on his way in, but he birdied the 17th hole to 5 under, which meant he and Zara Torres made the playoffs.

Thomas then played special in the three-hole playoff. He drove into the rough for the first time, but somehow recovered to birdie after a good wedge shot. Then he hit a shot on the 17th green and made another birdie.

Zara Torres wasn’t bad in the playoffs — a birdie and two pars should give you a shot. But he was probably beaten by the best golfer on the planet. Thomas wins the PGA Championship for the second time.

“A strange day,” he would say, and it was strange. But that’s why we watch, right? What’s the point if these golfers are immune to pressure, if they don’t feel the weight of golf history, if they can hit the ball with ease at the biggest events? Let’s see how Iron Mikes hits the perfect shot every time.

No, we want to see humans there. Sometimes it’s breathtaking. Sometimes ugly.

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