Sunday Storylines

Sunday Storylines at Southern Hills

Here are the best possible outcomes at a wide-open PGA Championship

By Alan Shipnuck
May 21, 2022

TULSA, Okla. — The third round of the PGA Championship teetered on anarchy, with brand-name players flying up (and mostly down) the leaderboard on an exacting test buffeted by breezes. By day’s end, Mito Pereira had claimed a three-stroke lead at 9 under par, but this still feels like the most wide-open major championship Sunday in recent memory, as the top six players on the leaderboard have a combined two PGA Tour victories. Meanwhile, a handful of major champions are lurking. Warmer temperatures will make Southern Hills play a little shorter in the final round, but the greens should continue to firm up after a Friday night storm. The guess here is that 7 under gets it done. With that in mind, here are the best possible scenarios for a fraught final round.

Webb Simpson shoots 64 to win. The crafty veteran has barely factored at the majors since his breakthrough at the 2012 U.S. Open, but on Moving Day at Southern Hills, Simpson came home in a mere 30 strokes for a 65 that was easily the low round of the day. Does he have more magic left?

Matt Fitzpatrick shoots 69 to win. The gritty grinder from England excels on tough courses and should probably be considered the betting favorite if the PGA of America pushes the course closer to the edge for the final round. The short-hitting 27-year-old has proven he can close, with seven wins on the European Tour. Now it’s time to go to a different level. Fitz isn’t flashy, to say the least, but a win would be a pleasing throwback to how the game used to be played.

Mito Pereira shoots 72 to win. Another likable 27 year-old, this one from Chile by way of Texas Tech. Pereira has done his time on the Latinoamerica and Korn Ferry tours. He has long been considered a big-time talent, and he showed a ton of heart on Saturday by closing with three late birdies after a mid-round swoon. A win would launch his career and be a boon for golf in South America, even if casual fans are just learning his name.

Southern Hills

Abraham Ancer shoots 67 to win. Abe looks more and more like a big-time player, and his controlled, precise game is perfect on a course with little margin for error. Throw in his smoldering good looks and he is one transcendent round away from a star-is-born moment.

Gary Woodland shoots 64 to win. When Woodland overpowered Pebble Beach at the 2019 U.S. Open, it seemed like this preeminent athlete might turn into a dominant force. But injuries and ennui have kept him from building on that triumph. A native of Topeka, Kan., Woodland will be the people’s choice here on the Great Plains.

Stewart Cink shoots 65 to win. The 2009 British Open champ has had a sneaky-good career and at 49 continues to enjoy a renaissance. And given the cruelty that befell him at the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills, a win at this PGA would make one helluva redemption story.

Xander Schauffele shoots 63 to win. Having recently broken his Tour winless streak (albeit at the team event in New Orleans), X is now overdue to take the next step. Southern Hills does feel like the kind of place where someone can win from the clubhouse while the leaders falter.

Will Zalatoris shoots 69 to win. Is there anything in golf more suspenseful than watching Zalatoris putt? He has been good on the greens this week, but whether this spectacular ball-striker can shake in the crucial putts with a major on the line will be some of Sunday’s best theater. If he gets it done, this charismatic 25-year-old will be on to bigger things.

Max Homa shoots 64 to win. The funny dude from Twitter is threatening to become one of the game’s leading men, with three wins in the last 15 months, all on stern tests. With Tiger Woods having withdrawn, it would be hard to imagine a more popular winner.

Bubba Watson shoots 65 to win. After tying the PGA Championship record on Friday with a 63, Bubba couldn’t buy a putt during the third round, slipping down the leaderboard. But on a course that demands precise shots and creativity, he’s still dangerous. At 43, and four years removed from his last victory, Watson has found some form in 2022 after a series of injury setbacks. One more major championship victory would punch his ticket to the Hall of Fame, as crazy as that sounds.

Justin Thomas shoots 65 to win. Ever since he took the PGA Championship in 2017, Thomas was supposed to be the game’s next superduperstar. He has piled up some nice wins, but a chronic futility in the majors has dulled his star power. A sloppy 74 on Saturday is another in a string of disappointing rounds when it really matters. Can Thomas, 29, become the player he was always supposed to be? Rallying for a win at this PGA would send him to the moon.

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