Saturday, May 22, 2021

PGA Championship -- Round 3

Well, friends -- as Jim Nantz would say -- that was the most compelling day of golf that we've seen since Tiger won the 2019 Masters.  In fact, it may have been the most compelling day of sport that we've seen since the pandemic began.

For one thing, we had a crowd that really felt like a crowd.  There were huge, unmasked galleries all over the course, and they made their voices heard on every shot.  We haven't often heard those big, unforced noises that excited fans make under the pressure of an event.  We haven't seen any athletes really face the pressure of having to perform in front of a large, noisy crowd.  Of course, many of the fans were worse for alcohol, and the microphones picked up the type of rowdiness that golf fans usually associate with Phoenix.  But it was joyous to see so many happy fans -- I've missed that a lot.

And then we had a great golf course.  I have liked the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island ever since it hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup, and I'm very pleased to see it getting the chance to host a second PGA tournament.  Few courses can play to a par of 72 while hosting a major tournament, and yet tournaments are much more entertaining when you get four par fives.  In my opinion, the Ocean Course is one of the gems of American golf, and should be included in our championship rota for both the PGA and the U.S. Open.

A great golf course identifies itself by its ability to reward great golfers.  Today almost everyone who was in contention was a major star, at least one of them was a legend, and at least one other is threatening to become a legend.  Phil Mickelson, at the age of 50, birdied five of the first 10 holes to get to 10-under par.  At that point he had a five shot lead.  But the rest of the round was a struggle.  He bogeyed the 12th, double bogeyed the 13th, and battled to make pars the rest of the way.  But he got his pars and finished at 7-under par.  That left him clinging to a one-shot lead over Brooks Koepka, who is going for his third PGA title in four years.  Koepka shot a two-under par 70 -- the same score as Mickelson -- but he played a steadier round.  He bogeyed the last hole to fall out of a tie for the lead, but he'll be in the last group tomorrow, where these two big stars will play under the most dramatic conditions imaginable.

Koepka is, in my opinion, the best of the millennial golfers.  He suffers from chronic injury problems that will likely prevent him from meeting his full potential, but he has already won four majors and has to be favored for a fifth tomorrow.  Five major titles is a lot -- it's the same as Lee Trevino and Phil Mickelson -- and it would be a remarkable performance.

But a victory by Mickelson would certainly be one of the most famous victories in golf history.  Mickelson has always been popular, and almost everyone on Kiawah Island will be rooting for him tomorrow.  To win the PGA at his age, on such a great course against such a great field, would probably be the greatest accomplishment of his career.

Finally, we can't forget Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion.  He survived the cauldron of playing with Mickelson's gallery today, and he will enjoy being one hole ahead of the leaders tomorrow.

Here is the leaderboard after three rounds:

1.  P. Mickelson-7 (70+69+70=209)

2.  B. Koepka-6 (69+71+70=210)

3.  L. Oosthuizen (RSA):  -5 (71+68+72=211)

4.  K. Streelman-4 (70+72+70=212)

T5.  C. Bezuidenhout (RSA):  -3 (71+70+72=213)
T5.  B. Grace (RSA):  -3 (70+71+72=213)

T7.  B. DeChambeau-2 (72+71+71=214)
T7.  J. Niemann (CHI):  -2 (71+72+71=214)
T7.  G. Woodland-2 (70+72+72=214)

T10.  P. Casey (ENG):  -1 (71+71+73=215)
T10.  S. Im (KOR):  -1 (70+72+73=215)
T10.  C. Conners (CAN):  -1 (67+75+73=215)

The betting markets give the following odds for tomorrow:

Koepka:  3 to 2
Mickelson:  3 to 1
Oosthuizen:  6 to 1

No one else is given odds of better than 16 to 1.

1 comment:

  1. I watched some of this tournament Thursday, a lot of it Friday, a lot of it Saturday and bits on my phone with spotty connectivity Sunday. It was really fun to follow all the way through, and your articles about it made it even more fun.