He’s far from the only one, but Will Zalatoris is having a complete shocker. Another wild drive, this time at 7, and he can only send his second down a swale to the left of the green. He doesn’t commit to his bump up, and though he nearly drains the 30-foot par putt he leaves himself, that’s yet another bogey. His card so far: 5-4-4-5-5-4-5. By contrast, his partner Mito Pereira is swanning around seemingly without a care in the world. He eases his approach to 15 feet, then nearly makes the left-to-right birdie curler. One more turn, and he’d have really put the boot in on the flailing Zalatoris. Meanwhile an up and down from sand at 8 for Bubba, and he’s now flying solo in second.
-10: Pereira (7)
-6: Watson (8)
-5: Zalatoris (7)
-4: Riley (9), Ancer (8), Thomas (7)
Moving Day. Pereira apart, there’s not much of it going on, is there? But hold on! Hold on! Here’s Bubba getting the slightly subdued crowd going! He sends his second at 7 to 20 feet, then rolls in the putt. He joins Zalatoris in second spot! Rory meanwhile three-putts the par-three 8th, and he wears the weary look of a man who has given up. He’s level par, having shipped four shots in the last three holes. In other three-putt news, JT bogeys 7.
-10: Pereira (6)
-6: Watson (7), Zalatoris (6)
-4: Ancer (8), Thomas (7)
From the centre of the 7th fairway, McIlroy slices dangerously close to more water. His ball comes to rest on a sprinkler head, so he gets a free drop. The chip on isn’t great, and he can’t make the 15-foot par putt he leaves himself. He’s +1, now nine off Pereira’s lead. The difference between Thursday Rory and Friday-Saturday Rory is chalk and cheese. This is a shambles. Can he rediscover that first-round mojo? He’ll need to do so quicksmart if he’s to salvage his bid for a third PGA title.
Zalatoris, much maligned for his putting, was leading the field with the flat stick after 36 holes. He certainly won’t be after 54. He prods this one to the right of the cup. Never dropping. This is a flat-stick farce. Pereira makes his without too much fuss, and the Chilean looks utterly unflappable.
-10: Pereira (6)
-6: Zalatoris (6)
-5: Thomas (6), Watson (6)
Zalatoris doesn’t fancy the water that did for McIlroy at the par-three 6th, but plays it way too safe and ends up down the slope to the right of the green. He does extremely well to bump up to six feet. Pereira meanwhile has found the bunker at the front. He splashes out to five feet. Both still have a little work to do.
Jordan Spieth saves par on 18 by rolling in a 20-footer, but he’s signing for a disappointing, if occasionally very entertaining, 74. He’s +5, and the career slam will have to wait until Oak Hill next year at the very least. Back on 6, his mate Justin Thomas misses a tiddler to drop back to -5.
Mito Pereira gently guides in his right-to-left slider – it was more ten feet than 15 – and he’s suddenly three in the lead! The 27-year-old from Chile is threatening a shock of Daly-Beem-Micheel proportions! A two-putt par for Zalatoris. Meanwhile on 6, McIlroy takes his drop, doesn’t wedge close, then races his bogey putt four feet past. In the end, he’s fortunate to limit the damage to a shambolic double, but he walks off the green wearing the face of a man who knows he’s in the process of letting a great opportunity for a first major in eight years slip through his fingers. He certainly wasn’t playing major-winning golf yesterday, and he doesn’t look like getting any better today. He’s -2.
-10: Pereira (5)
-7: Zalatoris (5)
-6: Thomas (5)
-5: Ancer (6), Watson (5)
Mito Pereira looks absolutely nerveless! From the centre of the par-five 5th, he wedges to 15 feet, leaving himself an uphill look at birdie. Will Zalatoris isn’t half as certain right now, and from a similar position he sends his approach to the back-left portion of the green. He’ll have a birdie putt as well, albeit from a significantly longer distance, and that’s the sort of putt he left well short at the previous hole.
Another birdie for Matt Fitzpatrick! He rattles in a 20-footer at 6. It’s only the fifth birdie on the tricky par-three today; it’s playing the hardest hole today, with an average of 3.62. Fitzpatrick has picked up over a shot and a half on the field! He moves back to -3, and all that early damage is now repaired. And as if to illustrate how difficult the hole is, once Fitzpatrick departs, Rory McIlroy pulls his tee shot into Tyrrell’s Creek. Thursday morning suddenly feels a very long time ago.
Abraham Ancer breaks a run of pars with birdie at the par-five 5th. His partner Rory McIlroy’s par run continues. They’re -5 and -4 respectively. Up on 6, Stewart Cink sends his tee shot wide right, wary of the water, then duffs his chip. A bogey brings him back to -3. And back on 4, Pereira gets up and down from the front, a chip screeched to a halt five feet from the cup, the left-to-right par slider teased in. He’s suddenly two in the lead, Zalatoris hitting another tentative long putt that leaves too much work for his skittish short-range constitution to bear. A three-putt bogey.
-9: Pereira (4)
-7: Zalatoris (4)
-6: Thomas (4)
-5: Ancer (5), Watson (4)
-4: Riley (5), McIlroy (5)
Pereira sends his tee shot at 4 into the rough down the right. He’s snookered by a tree and can only chip out sideways, in front of the green. Zalatoris’s tee shot flies in exactly the same direction, but takes a bounce off a cart path and away from the awkward tree. He can’t take advantage of his lucky break, though, hitting a hot chip that nearly topples off the back of the green. Not so close.
It’d been a slow start for Matt Fitzpatrick, who bogeyed the opening two holes. But he’s taken a step back up the leaderboard by holing out from a deep bunker at the front of 5. The birdie returns him to -2. However Tyrrell Hatton’s watery woes continue: he finds the deep blue again at the par-three 6th, and runs up a double. He’s +2 and any outside chance he had of taking a run at the title this weekend already look kaput.
Disappointment for Will Zalatoris on 3. He clips a lovely approach to six feet, but misses his first putt from inside ten feet in 22 attempts with a very uncertain prod. A big chance for birdie goes by. The leader Mito Pereira makes a calm two-putt par to remain one in the lead. Meanwhile up on 4, Justin Thomas makes a 25-foot right-to-left slider for a birdie that repairs the damage of that opening bogey. He’s back to -6. Meanwhile his partner Bubba Watson bounces back from a bogey at 3 (caused by a chip failing to make it up the false front) with birdie at 4 (reward for a wedge from 60 yards to five feet).
-9: Pereira (3)
-8: Zalatoris (3)
-6: Thomas (4)
-5: Watson (4)
-4: Cink (5), Riley (4), Ancer (4), McIlroy (4)
-3: Young (6)
Jon Rahm, one of the pre-tournament favourites, signs for a 76. His mood isn’t helped by a short putt horseshoeing out on the last. He’s +8 overall.
Cameron Young finished strongly yesterday, coming home in 32 strokes. It ensured the 25-year-old from New York would make his first cut at a major, having previously failed twice at the US Open and at the Masters last month. This is his PGA Championship debut, and he continues to go well; birdies at 5 and 6 have sent him up to -3. His playing partner and namesake, Cam Smith, is sadly heading the other way: bogeys at 1 and now 6, and the Players champion slips back to level par.
A huge moment on 2! Zalatoris underclubs his second, his ball only just making the green. Zalatoris smiles as Pereira finds the heart of the green, but there’s frost around the teeth. Zalatoris is left with a long two putts for par, and he leaves the first one six feet short. Pereira ramps up the pressure by rattling in his birdie putt from 20 feet, the ball clanking off the flagstick he’s left in and dropping. Zalatoris does very well to roll in his par saver. That’s huge. A bogey-bogey start, including a two-shot swing on one hole, would have been a real sickener. It’s still far from ideal for Zalatoris, especially as Pereira looks nerveless right now.
-9: Pereira (2)
-8: Zalatoris (2)
-5: Thomas (2), Watson (2)
-4: Riley (4), Cink (4), McIlroy (3), Ancer (3)
A good up-and-down from Bubba, who had sent his second at 2 down the bank to the left. A par-par start for yesterday’s 63-shooting hero. He remains at -5. And it’s a par-par-par start for Rory, who very nearly chips in from the front of 3. One more joule of energy and that was in, but he’s got to tap in to remain at -4. He wheels around in frustration, though that was a lovely delicate touch.
Pereira nearly holes his wedge out of the bunker at 1, but the ball rolls six feet past. Zalatoris doesn’t threaten the cup with his attempt, and can’t get any closer. He hits a tentative par saver, and has to tap in for an opening bogey. Pereira makes his putt coming back for par, and the 27-year-old PGA debutant has a share of the lead!
-8: Pereira (1), Zalatoris (1)
-5: Watson (1), Thomas (1)
-4: Ancer (2), McIlroy (2)
Not the ideal start for Justin Thomas, who sends his second at 1 down a swale, and can’t get up and down to escape with par. Leading for so long yesterday afternoon, he slips back to -5, now four off the lead. But there’s some instant hope for the chasing pack as nerves jangle in the final group: both Will Zalatoris and Mito Pereira send their second shots at 1 into the bunker guarding the front right of the green. A couple of potentially round-defining splashes coming up!
“Of course, golf is a very strange game,” begins John Weldon. “It was invented by the Scots, after all, to screw up the English. Just look at Tyrrell Hatton.” Haw! Speaking of everyone’s favourite volcanic golfer, he ended up with a triple-bogey seven after finding the drink at 2. He crashes back to level par, steam pouring from his lugs. Goodness knows what mood he’ll be in tomorrow should Manchester City seal the title with another 94th-minute goal to deny his beloved Liverpool. One way or another, he could be worth keeping an eye on. Actually, the ever-entertaining Hatton is always worth keeping an eye on, but you get the general gist.
Matt Fitzpatrick and Davis Riley are out together today, but they didn’t have such a good time down the 1st. Bogeys for the pair of them, and they drop to -2 and -3 respectively. Better news for the 2019 US Open champ Gary Woodland, who cards his first birdie of the day at 4 to move to -3. And some Dambusters-esque delight for Jordan Spieth on 12: having sent his tee shot into the trees down the left, he tries to punch his way under branches towards the green. His ball heads towards a creek, but instead of dunking into the briny, it aquaplanes. One bounce and he’s over! Dry! However he’s been just off it all week, despite clinging onto hope with his fingernails, and he chunks the chip he’s left with. He can’t make the par saver and that’s the bogey his second shot deserved in the first place. He’s +4 … and there’s been some quite strange golf today.
A nerve-settling start for Rory McIlroy … perhaps. He sends his opening drive into the rough down the left, then pulls his approach into a bunker at the back of the green. But he splashes out to three feet, and tidies up for his par. He remains at -4, as does his playing partner today Abraham Ancer, who traverses the hole in a much less dramatic fashion. A textbook meander, straight down the middle.
There could be some dramatic fun and games on the shortened 296-yard par-four 17th later on. Marc Leishman illustrates this by driving the green, 299 yards to nine feet, then sinking the eagle putt. He rises to +6, and could sell that later to a few of the leaders for several shiny bronze tokens.
Sepp Straka became the first Austrian to win on the PGA Tour back in February, pipping Shane Lowry to the Honda Classic at the PGA National by a shot. The 29-year-old from Vienna has since made the top ten at the Players Championship and the top 30 at the Masters, but he’ll not do so well this week. He’s just completed a third-round 79, joining Tiger, Maverick McNealy and Patton Kizzire at the bottom of the leaderboard at +12 … and yet he does so with a wide smile, having finished with back-to-back birdies, the last a chip-in from the front of 18! He was 12 over for his round through 12, so that’s quite a salvage job, the other birdie coming at 13. Once more with feeling: golf, very, very, etc.
Jordan Spieth, already with the Masters, US Open and Open on his resumé, went into the week hoping to complete the career slam by lifting the Wanamaker Trophy. After opening rounds of 72 and 69, he needed a quick start today if he was to have any chance of bursting from the pack and hunting down the leaders. But he didn’t get it. Sending his second at 1 into greenside rough down the right, he trundled his chip through the green and off down a swale. He nearly holed his wedge back up, but the ball missed the flagstick by millimetres and raced five feet by. He couldn’t make the bogey putt coming back, and the double bumped him down to +3. It’s over. He’s just been spotted chatting away at himself in his usual expansive style, a birdie putt at 10 resting stubbornly on the lip. Maybe next year at Oak Hill, huh.
It’s fair to say most people expected Jon Rahm to be the leading Spaniard this week. Instead, it’s Adri Arnaus leading the Iberian charge. Birdie at 2 has just been followed by another at 5, and the 27-year-old from Barcelona is enjoying his PGA Championship debut. He’s -2 for the week. Rahm, for the record, is four over for his round today, currently +6 overall through 14.
Back to the business end of the leaderboard, then. As mentioned earlier (6.12pm) Tyrrell Hatton has been saying his piece about the bobbly greens. All eyes on his first putt today, then … and of course he rolls it in smoothly from 18 feet for an opening birdie. A fast start for the trenchant Englishman, who rises to -3 immediately. All of which makes what happens next even more predictable: he sends his tee shot whistling into a creek at the 2nd. He’ll have to take a penalty drop, and will most probably be handing that shot back in short order. Golf is a very, very, very, etc.
Tiger finds 18 in regulation. He’s pretty bold with his 45-foot birdie putt, though. Uh-oh Tiger. He’s left with a five-footer coming back for par and a 79. Ah, never in doubt! Straight in! He’s +12, but more importantly avoids a third major-championship round in the 80s. The only time he’s done that? An 81 in awful conditions at the 2002 Open at Muirfield, and an 80 at the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay, when your ever-dependable hole-by-hole hack described Woods and Rickie Fowler, his playing partner that day who shot 81, as “the Maurice Flitcroft and Walter Danecki de nos jours”. You’re welcome.
Par for Webb Simpson at 18, and the 2012 US Open champion signs for a magnificent 65. He’s the new clubhouse leader at -1, for what that’s worth at this early stage. Meanwhile Tiger continues his slow prowl home. He just needs two pars to avoid a round of 80, and the nerves are beginning to jangle. He sends his tee shot at the shortened 17th into greenside sand, then nearly sends his escape down a swale. The ball just clings onto the fringe, from where he leaves his 20-foot birdie attempt a couple of feet short, enough to set the knees clacking. In goes the putt, though, and everyone at Southern Hills is hoping that the 15-time major winner will soon be signing for a 79. Golf can thrill and charm in so many different ways. Like I say, a very, very, very, very, very strange game.
Sensational scenes on 12! Kramer Hickok is making his major-championship debut this week. The 30-year-old from Dallas shot a pair of 71s to easily make the cut, but upon finding his second shot plugged in a greenside bunker on 12, already three over for his round, may have been wondering why he bothered. His attempted splash out hit the lip, rebounded onto his leg, then settled in the deep footprint he’d left. A huge mountain of sand behind his ball. All he can do is attempt to batter through it and see if his ball powers out. It doesn’t, and nearly rolls back behind the mountain again. But fortunately it rolls inches past, allowing a clean strike at sand wedge number three. You already know what happens next, don’t you? Yep, straight in. The crowd go wild, his partner Jon Rahm offers a grin and a congratulatory fist bump, and golf is a very, very, very, very, very strange game indeed. Just a bogey for Hickok, who slips to +5 but will always remember that wonderful slapstick fun. Kramer’s namesake Cosmo couldn’t have done it any better.
Another birdie for Webb Simpson! He takes advantage of the significantly shorter 17th by sending his tee shot into a greenside bunker, from which he very nearly holes out. He moves into red figures at -1 for the week, and a par up the last will see him sign for a 65.
A decent start for Ryan Fox. The 35-year-old Kiwi has birdied 1 and 4 to move to -2 for the tournament. Fox has no record in the majors to speak of, but if he can just hold his position on the leaderboard for the next 32 holes, a first top-ten finish will be his. Meanwhile the 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, who has been quiet for some time but has shown flashes of his old self this week, opens with birdie and joins Fox at -2.
Tiger isn’t the only one struggling today, though. Low scores really are at a premium right now, with the vast majority of the early starters currently over par for their rounds. There’s certainly not much in the way of dramatic upward momentum. But a few of the early starters are offering the field some hope. Sebastián Muñoz and Rikuya Hoshino are in with one-under 69s, while Lucas Glover has shot 68. Most strikingly of all, the 2012 US Open champion Webb Simpson is spectacularly bucking the trend; he’s four under for his round today through 16, thanks to a run of birdie-eagle-birdie through holes 12, 13 and 14. The eagle, on the second par five, was the result of a hole out from 80 yards. So, you know, we’ve given the conditions the big one, but it can be done. Simpson is level par for the tournament.
… so having just said all that, Tiger rolls in a 30-foot right-to-left slinger on 15 for his first birdie of the day! He chalks up an imaginary figure one, then allows a cheeky grin of self deprecation spread across his face. He’s +12, and if he can just par his way home, he’ll avoid posting a score in the 80s.
The halfway leader Will Zalatoris was 12 days old when Tiger Woods turned pro in 1996. The living legend has done marvellously well to make the weekend on one-and-a-half legs, but the old bones are creaking a bit in the cold today. Tiger’s played 14 holes so far today, and he’s ten over for his round, the biggest blot on his card a triple-bogey at the par-three 6th, finding water off the tee. He’s +13 right now, and while it’s dispiriting to witness the great man hobbling around, this all helps his recovery as he looks to rebuild and compete seriously at St Andrews for the 150th Open.
Some better news for the low-score-dreaming chasing pack. The PGA have moved up the tee boxes on the par-five 13th and par-four 17th, the holes playing significantly shorter today. The 13th was a mammoth 636 yards yesterday; it’s just 531 now. The 17th meanwhile has been shortened from 370 yards to 296. That should please the ever-entertaining Tyrrell Hatton, who at the start of the week said: “I think the PGA and USGA seem to be in a bit of a fight about who’s got the longest golf course and who’s got the longest par-3. It would be nice if they were a bit more creative with course setup rather than just trying to make it hard through length all the time.” Here’s to them also sorting out the state of the greens, which Hatton also has an opinion on, saying last night: “I mean, we’re playing a major championship, not a monthly medal. You know, they’re bubbling all over the place. It’s so hard to hole putts. So you can hit a great putt and they just don’t look like going in, which is hard to accept when we’re playing in a major championship.” More fireworks later today, maybe!
The first big story of Moving Day? The shift in the weather. It’s a lot cooler today, with temperatures dropping to around 12 or 13 degrees Celsius. A few showers may be a-coming, too. Not only that, the direction of the wind has turned about face; it’s now coming from the north, a breeze of 12 to 18 mph gusting as high as 30, and the course is a different proposition accordingly. Southern Hills got a good old soaking last night, as well, so with less roll out, scoring isn’t expected to be particularly low. Then again, few were loudly predicting scores of 63, 64 and 65 yesterday, even when the wind dropped in the afternoon, so you never know if someone will pull something out of the bag. Let’s see.
It’s Moving Day! Here’s how the top of the leaderboard looked after 36 holes …
-4: Ancer, McIlroy, Riley
-3: Fitzpatrick, Cink
-2: Young, Burns, Smith, Kuchar, Hatton, Kirk, Woodland
-1: Na, Reed, Homa, Wiesberger, Niemann, Gooch
… here’s a selected list of players who missed the cut …
Scottie Scheffler, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Harry Higgs, Daniel Berger, Matthew Wolff, Corey Conners, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Ian Poulter, Branden Grace, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and former champions John Daly, Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel, YE Yang, Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer and Jason Dufner.
… and here are today’s tee times (all BST). It’s on!
1.37 pm: Brian Harman
1.46 pm: Lucas Glover, Sebastian Munoz
1.55 pm: Cam Davis, Rikuya Hoshino
2.04 pm: Patton Kizzire, Hideki Matsuyama
2.13 pm: Maverick McNealy, Luke List
2.22 pm: Keith Mitchell, Charl Schwartzel
2.31 pm: Louis Oosthuizen, Billy Horschel
2.40 pm: Collin Morikawa, Webb Simpson
2.49 pm: Si Woo Kim, Adam Hadwin
2.58 pm: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris
3.07 pm: Troy Merritt, Kevin Streelman
3.16 pm: Sepp Straka, Adam Schenk
3.25 pm: Jason Day, Russell Henley
3.34 pm: Justin Harding, Marc Leishman
3.43 pm: Brendan Steele, Laurie Canter
3.52 pm: Thomas Pieters, Francesco Molinari
4.10 pm: Jon Rahm, Kramer Hickok
4.19 pm: Keegan Bradley, Harold Varner III
4.28 pm: Brooks Koepka, Jason Kokrak
4.37 pm: K.H. Kee, Shane Lowry
4.46 pm: Justin Rose, Lanto Griffin
4.55 pm: Denny McCarthy, Jordan Spieth
5.04 pm: Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau
5.13 pm: Aaron Wise, Robert MacIntyre
5.22 pm: Tommy Fleetwood, Lucas Herbert
5.31 pm: Ryan Fox, Rickie Fowler
5.40 pm: Beau Hossler, Tom Hoge
5.49 pm: Adri Arnaus, Viktor Hovland
5.58 pm: Cameron Tringale, Seamus Power
6.07 pm: Patrick Reed, Kevin Na
6.16 pm: Bernd Wiesberger, Max Homa
6.25 pm: Talor Gooch, Joaquin Niemann
6.34 pm: Sam Burns, Gary Woodland
6.43 pm: Cameron Smith, Cameron Young
6.52 pm: Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar
7.10 pm: Stewart Cink, Chris Kirk
7.20 pm: Davis Riley, Matt Fitzpatrick
7.30 pm: Rory McIlroy, Abraham Ancer
7.40 pm: Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson
7.50 pm: Will Zalatoris, Mito Pereira