Louis Oosthuizen was, of course, speaking in retrospect. After having negotiated a third round in which he found himself injured and treated by a therapist, he could not help but note that Quail Hollow required players “to keep everything together.” Which, to his credit, he did, going even par yesterday and actually moving up the leader board. Tied for fourth and just two strokes off the pace set by World Number 25 Kevin Kisner, he holds the distinction of being the only major winner among the 15 hopefuls under par at the PGA Championship.
The prognosis was much brighter at the start of Moving Day. With the course softened by precipitation and organizers setting up the course to be at its shortest for the week, ballstrikers figured they could take advantage of a golden opportunity. Instead, humidity, measured as high as at 90 degrees, and, perhaps, pressure felled favorites and dark horses alike. Jason Day had an iffy start, looked headed for a sterling recovery, and then stumbled with a quadruple bogey off poor choice, poor execution, and poor luck in his final hole. Rickie Fowler was soaring until he failed to get a red figure on the easy par-five 15th; he then went bogey, double bogey, and bogey to all but ware his chance to claim the Wanamaker Trophy. Ditto Paul Casey, who went Four over par in his last three holes.
Considering all the backing up, staying put was, as Oosthuizen pointed out, good news. Hideki Matsuyama had a single birdie to his name, but, even with his inability to attack on the back nine, he managed to finagle a spot in the next-to-last pairing today. Even Kisner, who looked the steadiest in the field for much of the third round, couldn’t escape from tight spots. “I had a chance to run away from guys and take [them] out of the tournament, and I didn’t do it,” he argued. “As soon as you think you’re on top of things, [Quail Hollow] finds a way to kick you right in the face.” Indeed; ask Jordan Spieth, who started the week confident of forging a career Grand Slam, but who is now 37th and flustered by the major stop he believes to be the hardest.
In any case, the PGA Championship has proven to be a tough and, more importantly, fair test. Oosthuizen will say experience counts, and he’s right. As the third round showed time and again, however, execution is paramount, ensuring, if nothing else, that the eventual victor will have earned his place alongside the sport’s all-time greats.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Basic Energy Corp.