Saturday, May 18, 2024

PGA Championship Round Three

Scottie Scheffler shot a 73 and falls back  to a tie for 24th place at 7 under.  Brooks Koepka shot a 74 and is mired in a tie for 47th place at 4 under.  But for the most part, we have a star-studded leaderboard.  Valhalla really has become one of the best tournament courses in the United States, and it will be a shame if this week's drama convinces the PGA to avoid a course that gives us such excellent tournaments.

For a long time, I thought the best way to judge a course is by how hard it is for the pros to make low scores.  But over time, I came to realize this is the wrong metric.  For years, the U.S.G.A. showed that you can trick up courses in ways that make it impossible for anyone to break par.  But if you do so, the results will not usually reward the best players.  What you want is a course that is good at distinguishing between the best players and those in the second tier.  To take just one example:  the players who can hit the ball the farthest should score better than the others -- and growing the rough in ways that punish long hitters is simply unfair.  

At Valhalla, Jack Nicklaus built a course that rewards great players.  Tiger won here in 2000.  In 2014, Rory McIlroy edged out Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.  And in this tournament, Valhalla has once again done an excellent job of separating great players from the rest of the pack.  Here is the top 10 with one round to go, and as you can see it has an unusual number of stars at the top.  They have posted low scores -- not because the course is easy, but because they are very talented.  That's the type of result you want to see:

T1.  Xander Schauffele-15 (62+68+68=198)
T1.  Collin Morikawa-15 (66+65+67=198)

3.  Sahith Theegala-14 (65+67+67=199)

T4.  Shane Lowry (IRL):  -13 (69+69+62=200)
T4.  Bryson DeChambeau-13 (68+65+67=200)
T4.  Viktor Hovland (NOR):  -13 (68+66+66=200)

T7.  Justin Rose (ENG):  -12 (70+67+64=201)
T7.  Robert MacIntyre (SCO):  -12 (66+69+66=201)

9.  Dean Bermester (RSA):  -11 (69+65+68=202)

T10.  Lee Hodges-10 (71+65+67=203)
T10.  Justin Thomas-10 (69+67+67=203)
T10.  Harris English-10 (68+67+68=203)
T10.  Thomas Detry (BEL):  -10 (66+67+70=203)
T10.  Tony Finau-10 (65+69+69=203)
T10.  Austin Eckroat-10 (67+67+69=203)


  1. In a very poignant moment for Kentucky fans, P.J. Washington makes two free throws at the end of the game to lead Dallas to a 117-116 victory over Oklahoma City. With that win, the Mavs take the series four games to two. In 2018, Kentucky was eliminated by Kansas State 61 to 58 in a Sweet 16 game where P.J. went 8-20 from the line. In 2019, Kentucky was eliminated by Auburn in overtime in an Elite Eight game where P.J. went 6-11 from the line. If UK had gone to the Final Four in either of those seasons -- and they had a good chance both times -- Cal would probably still be in Lexington. But they did not. Tonight P.J. was 3-5 from the line, and those last two free throws made the difference.

  2. Let's also give a shoutout to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. In that 2018 game against K-State, SGA went 2-8 from 2-point range and 0-2 from 3-point range, all while committing five turnovers, and his 11 FT's weren't enough to make up the difference. Tonight, SGA was spectacular: 36 points, 8 assists, and zero turnovers. OKC lost, but it wasn't his fault.