Michael Block, Brooks Koepka and Genesee beer: 50 observations from the PGA 

Michael Block, Brooks Koepka

Michael Block and Brooks Koepka on Sunday during the PGA Championship trophy presentation.

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It wasn’t cold. It was quite warm, in fact. Like a hug.

As we look back on the week that was at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, let’s first quickly look forward and address the snowman in the room, which is the thought that Northern outposts shouldn’t host this event — because of the weather. What a chilly thought! On the golf front, the play was fine. It wasn’t compromised. Yes, it was miserable on Saturday, but rain clouds travel everywhere. Yes, it was 50 degrees on Wednesday, but that’s just sweater weather. But I get it, though — it’s not 85. So let’s meet in the middle.  

You must come back to Rochester, New York, y’all hear! (And a few other Northern towns, too.) To the players, the venue was a gem. To everyone, the town opened its doors. There aren’t many bright lights here. But plenty of smiles that you came. The pride was clear. We should love that. Here’s hoping the PGA of America and the USGA thinks so, too. 

Consider that our first observation. Let’s shoot for 49 more. We’re sitting down at Neutral Ground Coffeehouse, where I’m the only one here without a dog, and there’s a PGA Tour flag just outside the door, and no, that’s not a LIV comment. 

But we’ll get to that. 

2. Brooks Koepka, your PGA winner, is as mentally strong as … anyone? Ever? Let’s ignore for a second the physical talent, which is plenty. But everyone is good out here. To win, it takes that edge. The dog, as the kids say. Just ask Viktor Hovland, who’s trying to find it. Or Rory McIlroy, who’s trying to get it back. Tiger Woods had it. The undeniability. Koepka will lose, and he’ll trip up even. But it won’t be for a lack of faith. 

3. Big man also has plenty of touch, too. He was fifth in driving distance this week (318.9 yards) — and fourth in Strokes Gained: Around the Green. Oak Hill demanded the whole bag, and Koepka packed it. 

4. Koepka’s the favorite for the U.S. Open at L.A. Country Club, right? And the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, right? You gonna bet against him? Actually, he’d like to hear that you are. 

5. What if he hadn’t been hurt on and off since late 2019? What would the major number be?

6. If you’re new here, Koepka plays his other golf for LIV Golf, which had a break from late October of last year to late February of this year. Did the offseason help him to heal up completely? Yep. Is that harder to do on the PGA Tour? Yep. But it sounds like that’ll be easier to do now on that circuit. Make your own conclusions. 

7. This video was weird. 

8. So let’s talk LIV. They have the PGA Championship winner. They have Cam Smith, the Open Championship winner. At the PGA, Smith and Bryson DeChambeau also finished in the top 10. There are reasons to watch. 

9. If there are exemptions for Koepka and other LIV players to be on Ryder Cup teams, they should play. These guys want to win. That fixes this chemistry issue. 

10. The best players should play in the majors. Should there be exemptions for LIV golfers? It depends who’s on their tour. 

11. What does the future of the PGA Tour look like if you can get guaranteed money AND access to the big stuff while playing for LIV? 

12. Wild that this conversation has been going on for less than a year. 

13. All this kinda makes you forget whom LIV works for, doesn’t it? 

14. OK, back to the PGA. Let’s run down the leaderboard. Hovland is going to go on a Scottie Scheffler run here soon. 

15. Scheffler will be your Open Championship winner.

16. Through two rounds at the PGA, DeChambeau was first in driving distance — and tied for first in driving accuracy. Whoa. 

17. I liked McIlroy’s approach at the PGA — less talking about the other stuff, focus on the golf.  

18. But he won’t win a major this year. And he’ll be scrutinized. And he’ll tinker with the formula again. And the cycle will continue. What’s the lesson here?

19. Does Jordan Spieth win another major?

Brooks Koepka won his fifth major championship at Oak Hill on Sunday.
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20. In thinking about Phil Mickelson, we’ll shelve everything else and say just that what he is doing at age 52 is incredible. He’ll be 53 at the U.S. Open. 

21. Rochester food talk! They call Genesee Beer here the champagne of Rochester, and I love that, and when this story is done, I’m going to the Genesee brew house

22. Fan talk! I overheard this:

Fan one: “Is that Zach Johnson?”

Fan two: “Yeah.”

Fan one: “Where’s Dustin Johnson?”

Fan two: “He’s the taller Johnson.”

23. OK, it’s time. Block o’clock. Let’s talk Michael Block. He could probably get his own 50 observations. We’ll keep it to five. First off, I love that the 46-year-old club pro from California was as surprised as you were. 

24. I love the emotion. You’re OK in thinking that it was an act — but that’s only because we’re used to robots. 

25. Speaking of that, I loved meeting all of his friends and family this week. And my favorite quote from Block came when he was talking about his wife, Val — and how she coached him to talk to reporters. 

“My wife used to give me so much crap because for the first 100 interviews of my life back in the day, not with you guys but much smaller interviews, I was very, yes, yes, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, kind of what I hear honestly with a lot of the guys here when I see them doing this. It’s just like, dude … I just became way more natural. My wife really kind of told me to do that, and it’s worked out beautifully, so she was right.”

26. I love his game. He knows who he is. And plays to it. No matter that he was playing in the PGA. Or with Rory. That helped with the nerves. 

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27. I loved this moment. After the trophy ceremony, ahead of his final press conference, Block stood outside of the press tent — with a glass of pinot noir. He told me he wasn’t much of a wine drinker, but hey, why not. He sipped on it. When it was time to talk, an official told him to put down the half-full glass — at which point he chugged the rest, put the glass down and gave one of the best interviews of the week. 

28. OK, one more. I love that when (if?) things go back to normal for him, he says he’s going back to being Michael Block.  

29. OK, one, one more. You have to watch this. 

30. Oak Hill thoughts! Andrew Green’s restoration of Donald Ross’ gem was … perfect? The course was fair. You could score — high or low. Koepka’s nine-under suggests it was playable. Justin Thomas’ 12-over hints that there were few holes you relax on. Perfect! 

31. My one issue was the overlap of the holes in spots. For spectators, it was tough to maneuver. But there are worse places to be in the world than on a golf course. 

32. My favorite hole was the 15th, the short par-3. Where Block gave us the highlight of the week. OK, so I guess that’s another Block note. 

33. But don’t take my word on Oak Hill. Here’s J.J. Killeen, a former Tour pro who made the field as a club pro.

34. And here’s Mickelson.

35. I loved the old-school, yellow-and-red-painted, Tudor-styled clubhouse. Inside was better. The sounds? The wooden steps squeaked when you walked. The smells? The players were eating well. The vibe? Historic. Memories were created there. 

36. Club historian Fred Beltz took me and colleague Jack Hirsh around, and here are the top things Hirsh saw

37. And here is a wonderful wrap on the tournament from GOLF’S Dylan Dethier. 

38. And here is a wonderful breakdown of the enigma that is McIlroy by GOLF’s James Colgan.

39. And below is the latest Scoop, which is a wonderful new series from GOLF’s Claire Rogers. The latest is with longtime caddie and overall great guy Jim “Bones” Mackay. 

40. Let’s talk Buffalo Bill — and no, not the Buffalo Bills, though Josh Allen and Von Miller were in the house during the week. 

41. Quick Josh Allen story! On 8 tee on Wednesday, after watching McIlroy hit, a fan yelled for the quarterback to hit. He stopped. He smiled. He wanted to. But everyone else kept moving, and eventually Allen did too. Sad. 

42. Back to Buffalo Bill. And I’ll point you to the story here. In a sentence, we went ghost hunting at one of the most respected golf courses in the country during a major championship week. But it was so, so, so much more. Thank you to Connor Lewis, who helms the Society of Golf Historians Twitter account — he spotted the tale and helped. Thank you to Oak Hill, who let us have some fun. Thank you to Beltz, who is one of the most personable people I’ve ever met. Thank you to Susan Fiandach of the Purple Door Soul Source, who taught me how to talk to ghosts. Thank you to Sam Hanna of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, who taught me all about Bill Cody. Thank you to pro Aaron Rai, who, two days before the tournament, walked down to the water on the 7th hole with me and tried to contact a ghost. Thank you to GOLF’s Darren Riehl, who wonderfully captured that on video.  

43. Thank you to the two police officers who asked me what I was doing at 8 p.m. on an empty, private golf course, then let me continue to try to talk to Buffalo Bill.

44. If anyone knows of ghosts at LACC, holler. 

45. More Rochester food talk! A big food here is the pierogi and it touches my Polish heart. 

46. Speaking of food, on Thursday, I followed Kazuki Higa for a few holes, then talked with him afterward. At 5-foot-2, he’s one of the shortest pros ever, but doesn’t lack for pop. I asked him how he generates it. He smiled, then said: “Good sushi.”

47. More fan talk! On Friday, as pro Denny McCarthy ducked to the bathroom on the 4th hole, I overheard: “He’s human, too.”

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48. I made a mistake earlier in the week, saying in a story that Martin Kaymer won one major. He won two. And I received about 50 messages. I tried to respond to them all. I was impressed with the support. 

49. On Thursday, I followed Mickelson around in his first PGA appearance since the ’21 win. (He sat out last year amid LIV Golf drama.) The most memorable moment? As his team was packing up the car in the parking lot, he was taking driver swings. Everyone does it, it appears. Even six-time major champions

50. In a week filled with some odd play — and GOLF’s Josh Berhow recapped it well here — this was … something. On Friday, I walked with Zach Johnson for a few holes, and on 4, he was in the deep rough. He took a hack. The ball went in a right greenside bunker. In frustration, he took another chop. This time, the grass divot he took nearly landed on a kid’s head. In full disclosure, I laughed. 

51. OK, I have one more from Block. It’s a fun one, though.  

Ahead of the hole in one on Sunday, he had been playing, at best, fair — two bogeys, 12 pars. Nothing special. So on 14 tee, Block placed his ball right in front of 4-year-old Cary Lee McGill. It was time for a new one. It worked. A hole later, he had the ace. 

“Everyone came over and said: ‘That guy that just gave you the ball, he just had a hole in one,’” said Cary’s dad, Patrick. 

It gets better. 

Jackie Napier, a local news reporter, saw it all. And after Block’s round, she talked with tournament officials, brought the kid and his dad into the scoring area — and amidst everything, Block did this for his new good-luck charm:

Now it’s time for that Genesse. 

Editor’s note: I also compiled observations from the Masters, and if you’re interested, here is that story.

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.