PGA compression displays the humanity of players on the screen

A few years ago, I played in a pot-pot tournament. You might not have guessed this, but I was pretty good at Putt-Putt. I’m not talking about mini golf here, with windmills and mouths of clowns and pirates etc. No, I’m talking about the official Putt-Putt, where every hole is an equal 2 and there are no clumsy snags. Some of you may remember that there were Putt-Putt tournaments on TV with Billy Packer doing the ad.

Anyway, I was 16 or 17, played in a two-round tournament, oddly enough, fired 30 in the first round (6 under-level!) and was actually leading the division. It was, to say the least, unexpected. This was my first tournament, and I had a ridiculous playing style where I would put my left leg out, like Tony Batista’s open batting pose.

I can’t begin to describe the pressure I felt in that second round. I felt like a professional wrestler yelling at my back and an accordion playing a polka dance in my chest. It wasn’t just hard hitting. It wasn’t just hard to breathe. I felt like my whole body was going to give way, like one of the folding wooden shoulder toys.

Needless to say, I collapsed in the second round.

So, yeah, I thought Sunday was where we watched a whole bunch of talented young first-time contenders try to win the PGA Championship. It was, to say the least, ugly. When the day started, Chilean Mito Pereira was 9, he led the American (Will Zalatores) and the Englishman (Matt Fitzpatrick) with three shots, then came another American (Cameron Young) at the age of 5 under, and the Mexican (Abraham Ancer) in the 4 under

All five players have won – let me do some quick math here – well, zero majors. It also collected the five players who won one PGA TOUR event, and that was Ancer’s victory last year at the World Golf Championship – FedEx St. Zalatoris was competing at two major companies, so it wasn’t all green.

But it was a beautiful green.

This promises to make your Sunday TV compelling if you’re the kind of person who likes to watch car wrecks. After all, what do you think will happen when you have five talented, but undoubtedly terrified, players trying to win a Grand Slam golf tournament while keeping their lunches at the same time?

right. This is what happened. Ancer came off the stage early, punching the first hole and then the numbers 7, 8 and 9 to get out of contention and out of the TV spin. Heck, he was five at first anyway and with a long shot.

So leave the four children. Fitzpatrick was easily the most experienced of the quartet, having played in 28 major tournaments – more than twice the other three tournaments combined. It leaked some kind of oil through the rear nine and ended all hopes when he mistook the short and relatively easy par-4 17 instead of his birdie. Those were the shots that stood between him and the eventual winner, Justin Thomas.

Then, as Fitzpatrick tricked down that hole, it looked as if Pereira had wrapped up the tournament. The entire time, Pereira seemed surprisingly calm considering he had never been through anything like this before. He seemed such a potential winner that CBS was asking his friend Joaquin Nieman for an insight into the psychology of what this victory would mean in Chile (answers: he’s fearless; it means a lot in Chile).

But then the 12-foot-17 Pereira stopped half a revolution shy of a birdie, and then on hole 18, holding a one-shot lead, Pereira abruptly cut his car into a creek and that was the end of it. The shame is – this was really a great performance for him the first time he was competing in a major. “On Monday, I just wanted to make the cut,” he’d say.

Meanwhile, Will Xalatores did four ghosts, and frankly needed two little miracles to prevent two of those miracles from being any worse. But he kept it all together – this guy’s main record is really impressive – and he hit the same level on the 18th hole to finish 5 under, ahead of the other contenders for the first time.

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

See, it turns out that way in the distance, Justin Thomas – former No. 1 in the world, FedExCup champ and PGA champion – made some kind of charge. This wasn’t exactly Niklaus in Augusta. On the sixth hole, Thomas actually hit the tee shot – I mean real leg, as if he dropped the club and everything and needed an 18-foot shot for the stealth.

He played in the top nine on an equal footing and seemed to have no juice at all; There were seven bullets in the back. But then he made consecutive birdies at Nos 11 and 12 and moved to 4 under level, and seeing his familiar name on the leaderboard undoubtedly changed the whole atmosphere.

It was like the moment when the substitute teachers struggle to keep things together, and then the principal enters the classroom.

Thomas didn’t do anything special his way, but he did fly from that 17th hole to get to 5 under and that meant he and Zalatores were in a playoff.

Thomas then revealed excellence in the three-hole playoff; He hit his first engine in the rough, but somehow recovered to make a birdie anyway after a great wedge shot. Next, he hit one of the championship shots when he drove the 17th green and made another flyby.

Zalatoris didn’t play badly in the playoff – the jumper and two paris should give you a chance. But he may have been overtaken by the best golfer on earth. Thomas won the PGA Championship for the second time.

He’d say, “Weird day,” and it was weird. But that’s why we watch, isn’t it? If golfers are immune to pressure, if they can’t feel the burden of golf history, if they can take the hits easily and freely in the biggest tournaments at stake, then what’s the point? We might also watch Iron Mikes shoot perfect shots every time.

No, we want to see humanity there. Sometimes it’s amazing. And sometimes it’s hard to watch.