PGA Friday: Zalatoris Takes The Historically Important 36-Hole Lead
Bubba posts a 63 hitting driver all round. Plus, Notes, Quotes and Social highlights along with secondary ticket market news from the 2022 PGA Championship.
You already know the key stat thanks to historian Clyde Chrisman: in the seven previous majors at Southern Hills, the eventual winner led or co-led after 36-holes. Will Zalatoris (66-65) is da man this time around, and the 25-year-old will tee off Saturday at 1:50 p.m. CT with Chile’s Mito Pereira (68-64) looking to continue the 100% clip.
“I got away with murder a few times today for sure, especially starting off the day hitting the left trees and hitting it to a kick-in,” Zalatoris said before reeling off breaks at the 17th, 10th and draw. “I played the last eight holes with not much wind, but take it when you can get it.”
As spectacular as the top two have played, Saturday’s second-to-last group of Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson got to the penultimate pairing with equally impressive grinding. Despite the worst end of the draw, Thomas posted his second 67 and hit 16 of 18 greens in the worst winds of the week. Watson also exemplified the egalitarian nature of a once claustrophobic and lay-up heavy Southern Hills, becoming the 17th golfer to shoot 63 in the PGA Championship. He hit driver 14 times Friday and missed just one fairway at the par-5 13th.
His approach clubs used in making nine birdies:
1st: 63 degree Lob
4th: 56 degree
5: 3w second into bunker, up and down
9: 63 degree
13: Lay up, then Wedge
15: 63 degree
17: 63 degree
And when you’re hitting 63 degree into most holes, what else is there to feel but complete displeasure?
“I don't think I learned how to attack the golf course,” he said. “If you really want to go through my round, I was nervous on every single shot. I was nervous on every single putt. I had no clue. The greens are bumpy. Let's just call it like it is. They're bumpy and they were a little bit hairier today. It was tough. My putts bounced my way and they went in today.”
I will repeat: he shot 63.
In other notables news…
First-round leader Rory McIlroy (T5/-4) trails by five following a 1-over 71.
Scottie Scheffler (MC/+6) becomes only the third World No. 1 to miss the cut at the PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods recovered from a double-bogey at the par-3 11th with birdies on Nos. 13 and 16 to post 69.
Matthew Borchert finished as PGA Low Club Professional at 7-over-par.
Other pairings notes: Lucas Glover and Sebastian Munoz go out first at 7:10 a.m. CT, at 8:10 Collin Morikawa and Webb Simpson tee off, Tiger Woods is out at 8:30 a.m. with Shaun Norris, and Jordan Spieth is paired with Denny McCarthy at 10:40 a.m.
Will Zalatoris (66-65) on holding the historically important 36-hole record: “If you get on the wrong slopes it still has a little bit of the attitude of like Augusta where you can hit 18 greens and walk off that place and shoot 80. I think history to me, it is what it is, but I'm going to go out and do my job, and hopefully it's enough at the end.”
Bubba Watson (72-63) on his recent distance increase: “Out of nowhere, I don't know why or how it worked out, but I decided to change driver shafts. I've been using the same shaft since 2002. It's roughly 90 grams, so I switched to a 60-gram shaft, and as I get older, club head speed -- even though it doesn't sound like very much, it's a lot when it comes to the golf swing. Now I've picked up the distance, ball is going like I'm used to.”
Mito Pereira on what he would have said if told he’d contend in a major after taking two years away from the game as a teenager: “That you're crazy. No, I mean, I took the two years off but when I came back I just -- I knew I could do it, I knew I could get to here, and I just kept the confidence, and obviously there were some up and downs but really happy to be here.”
Brooks Koepka (75-67) on the rough: “You can't play from the rough. Simple. If you're going to put it in the rough it's going to be quite difficult to even get the ball close.”
Justin Thomas (67-67) on the rough: “A lot of it out of the rough this week is very much the player's call because you can technically make the ball go about as far as you want out of this Bermuda rough for the most part. It's the perfect length to where it's not necessarily chip-out rough, but if you just kind of pinch it and hit on it perfectly, the ball just comes out high with no spin and can just go so far that you really just have to trust your instincts and also guess correctly.”
Tiger Woods on the setup: “I think what Kerry [Haigh] has done has been amazing. He's set up the golf course great. It's been very fair. Hard but very fair. Hopefully tomorrow will be the same thing. It'll be a great test, and with the wind out of a completely different direction with cooler temperatures, again, it'll be a great test.”
USA Today’s Josh Peter went to San Diego in search of Phil and was told Mickelson was “in meetings” by a “property manager.” But his mother Mary and friend Charles Barkley spoke. The details not included are the most telling.
Ryan Glasspiegal followed-up on yesterday’s Quadrilateral report about Sage Steele getting struck by a Jon Rahm tee shot. He confirmed Steele was briefly hospitalized before returning home to Connecticut for the rest of PGA week.