Gooch on brink of maiden PGA Tour win at RSM Classic

By Sports Desk November 20, 2021

Talor Gooch is one round away from his first PGA Tour trophy after earning a three-stroke lead at the RSM Classic.

Gooch moved to the brink of a breakthrough victory on Saturday thanks to the American's three-under-par 67 in the third round in Georgia.

The 30-year-old, a one-time winner on the Web.com Tour in 2017, extended his lead courtesy of four birdies and just one bogey at Sea Island Golf Club, where he is 16 under through 54 holes.

"Any day like that is going to be a grind on the tour," Gooch said. "To be frank, what you're trying to do out there is avoid bogeys.

"It would have been easy today at times to just really get conservative and really be defensive. I was pleased I was able to stay aggressive at times."

Gooch holds a 54-hole lead/co-lead for the first time in his PGA Tour career – his previous best 54-hole position was solo second at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba a fortnight ago.

In his first 101 starts on the PGA Tour, Gooch's best 54-hole score was 198 (2020 Wyndham Championship. He has now carded 196 through three rounds twice in his last three starts.

"I want to be the best and I want to compete against the best and I want to be the best Oklahoma State golfer on TOUR," he said. "Everyone talks about Matt Wolff and Viktor Hovland … rightfully so. They're incredible players.

"But that's always a nice little something to kind of get you to work a little bit harder, be a little bit more diligent and try to prove them wrong."

Seamus Power (67) and Sebastian Munoz (69) are 13 under heading into the final round, while Tom Hoge is a shot further back following his third-round 67.

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  • US PGA Championship: Mito Pereira says he felt the pressure during 18th-hole collapse US PGA Championship: Mito Pereira says he felt the pressure during 18th-hole collapse

    Mito Pereira said he felt the pressure during his painful collapse on the 18th hole, which cost him the US PGA Championship.

    The Chilean has never won on the PGA Tour, but after leading by three strokes heading into Sunday's play, he appeared poised to win 2022's second major when he stepped up to the 18th tee with a one-stroke lead. It could have been a two-stroke lead, but his birdie putt on the 17th came up just inches short.

    The 27-year-old sliced his tee shot on the 18th hole, the ball eventually bouncing into the small creek. A bogey would have seen him join the playoff but his approach to the green went long, and the ensuing chip also dribbled off the back of the putting surface, ending in a double-bogey.

    Speaking to the media as Will Zalatoris and eventual winner Justin Thomas competed in the three-hole playoff, Pereira said he was still proud of his efforts.

    "It's tough, you know, to finish like that," he said. "A really good week, but I didn't play really well today.

    "I just needed to do a couple more birdies, and hit it a little bit better to win.

    "I'm just happy with how the week turned out – on Monday I just wanted to make the cut, and on Sunday I wanted to win. I'll take this and learn for the future."

    When asked about his performance on the 18th, he called it "weird", admitting he did not consider the possibility of the water coming into play.

    "I was okay – it was weird," he said. 

    "[The drive] wasn't a good stroke, but I just wasn't thinking about the water. I thought it was weird that it went in [the water]. 

    "I guess when you have so much pressure on your body, maybe you don't even know what you're doing."

  • US PGA Championship: Two-time champion Justin Thomas breaks down 'very special' and 'bizarre' final round US PGA Championship: Two-time champion Justin Thomas breaks down 'very special' and 'bizarre' final round

    Justin Thomas gushed over how special it feels to finally be a two-time major champion after winning the US PGA Championship for the second time.

    Thomas first won it in 2017 at Quail Hollow, and has now repeated the feat five years later, this time at Southern Hills Country Club.

    He prevailed in a playoff against Will Zalatoris after outright leader Mito Pereira capitulated on the 18th hole, double-bogeying to finish one stroke behind the new leading pair at five under. Thomas had trailed Pereira by eight strokes coming into Sunday's play.

    Speaking to the media after stepping off the 18th green, Thomas had one specific shot in mind – and it was not one of his best, highlighting a pure shank off the tee on the sixth hole.

    "It was a bizarre day," he said. "I have definitely crossed one off the list – I have never won a tournament shanking a ball on Sunday, so that was the first, and I would really like it to be the last.

    "Bones [caddie Jim 'Bones' Mackay] did an unbelievable job of just keeping me in the moment and I just tried to play the golf course for what it is.

    "This place is so tough. It was funny – I was asked earlier in the week about what lead is safe and I said 'no lead' because this place is so tough. But if you hit the fairways you can make birdies, and I stayed so patient. 

    "I could not believe that I found myself in a play-off."

    Later when speaking to Sky Sports, Thomas reflected on just how difficult it is to win a major after some questioned if he would finish his career with just the one, and admitted he did not check the leaderboard all day.

    "It is very, very special," he said. "Anytime you win is obviously great, but getting it done different ways teaches you a lot. 

    "This golf course is tough. Winning tournaments is tough. Winning a major is tough.

    "I just tried to stay patient, and I felt when I somehow got myself in the play-off it was time to get after it and get it done.

    "I did not look at the leaderboard today – Bones did an unbelievable job of just keeping me in the moment. We were just out playing Southern Hills on a beautiful day, on a Sunday.

    "I could kind of feel through the energy in the crowd that I had a chance, and I know that all the players up ahead of me are great players, but had not won a major, and it is a big moment. 

    "I know I am very nervous, so I know they are very nervous, and I just tried to tell myself that all I can do is control what I can and if it's good enough, great, if not, so be it.

    "It is awesome. it is so nice to hear two-time [champion] instead of one-time."

  • US PGA Championship: Justin Thomas wins after playoff against Will Zalatoris US PGA Championship: Justin Thomas wins after playoff against Will Zalatoris

    Justin Thomas ultimately prevailed in a thrilling US PGA Championship, lifting the Wanamaker Trophy after Mito Pereira's collapse on the 18th hole forced a playoff.

    Holding the lead coming into the final round, Pereira only needed a par on the 18th hole to secure his first PGA Tour victory, but put his drive in the water and could not even salvage a bogey to earn his spot in the playoff.

    With a double-bogey capping off a final round 75, he went from six under to four under, tying for third with Cameron Young.

    The playoff was contested between Thomas and Will Zalatoris after both players produced clutch shots late in their rounds to finish at five under.

    Thomas – who tied for the round of the day with his 67 – had a birdie putt on 18 to move to six under, but could not convert from 10 feet, finishing with a par to head into the clubhouse in outright second place, trailing Pereira by one shot.

    Zalatoris, on the other hand, bogeyed the 16th to drop to four under, but came right back with a birdie on 17. He had a tricky par putt on 18 to remain tied with Thomas, and he remained cool under pressure.

    In the playoff – which was contested over the aggregate score of three holes, the first being a par-five – Zalatoris appeared to strike first as he found the fairway with his drive, while Thomas hit the rough. Thomas was forced to lay-up, while Zalatoris made the green in two.

    Zalatoris two-putted for his birdie, while Thomas put his wedge to within six feet, converting his birdie putt to tie the first playoff hole.

    The second playoff hole was the 17th – a drivable par-four – and Thomas found the green with his drive. Zalatoris did not, and after chipping into birdie range, he missed his putt, tapping in for par. Thomas, on the other hand, safely two-putted for birdie to take a one stroke lead into the final playoff hole.

    Both players drove well and made the green in regulation on the last, and after Zalatoris failed to sink a long birdie putt, Thomas only needed to two-putt for par to secure his second career major, making no mistakes. It is his second PGA Championship, five years after winning at Quail Hollow.

    Also making the top-five was the English duo of Matt Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood – with the latter matching Sunday's best score – and American Chris Kirk, tied for fifth at three under.

    It was a strong final round from Rory McIlroy, who rebounded from a disappointing 74 on Saturday to shoot 68 – one stroke off the round of the day – to finish outright eighth at two under.

    McIlroy looked like he may be trending for a legendary final round after four consecutive birdies starting on the second hole, but he would claim no more from the fifth.

    A four-man group of Mexico's Abraham Ancer, Ireland's Seamus Power and the American pairing of Tom Hoge and Brendan Steele rounded out the top-10, and the last players to finish under par.

    Cameron Smith and Xander Schauffele highlighted the group at even par, while the big names struggled, as Jordan Spieth finished at four over, Jon Rahm wrapped up at six over, and Collin Morikawa at eight over.

    Shot of the day

    The shot of the day went to Englishman Laurie Canter, who birdied the difficult par-four 18th hole from the fairway.

    After his drive found the rough, he was forced to lay-up 97 yards from the pin, but was able to convert it thanks to some sharp backspin.

    A little birdie told me…

    Before his horror drive on 18, Pereira earned his 71-hole lead with great success on the difficult par-fives and par-threes. He joined Webb Simpson as the only players to shoot a combined six under on the par-fives (fifth and 13th holes) over their four rounds

    Only four players finished under par for the week on the par-threes (sixth, eighth, 11th and 14th holes) – Fitzpatrick and Rose were two under, while Pereira and Steele shot one under.

    On average, nobody drove the ball further than Rory McIlroy this week, posting 347.6 yards per drive. However, the longest drive of the week went to Jon Rahm, with a 418-yard bomb.

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