Mito Pereira’s class, Zalatoris’ masterful cart path chip | Seen & Heard at Southern Hills on Sunday
This week, we’re bringing InsideGOLF members exclusive insights and observations from the grounds at Southern Hills. Check your inbox each evening for the latest report from our team of tapped-in writers. Here’s what they saw and heard on Sunday.
What’s next for Mito?
By Sean Zak
A year ago, Mito Pereira and I were on the same golf course, a long way from Tulsa, Okla., and a long way from the PGA Tour. We were in Evanston, Ill., at the Evans Scholars Invitational, on the Korn Ferry Tour. Periera was grinding on his game; I was working on an ice cream sandwich in the gallery.
I watched Pereira play a couple of holes that day en route to a Sunday 71. The next time I thought seriously about Pereira was last week at the PGA Championship, the site of both his greatest performance and the costliest shot of his career.
The winner that week in Evanston was Cameron Young, a stout player with a slow backswing, a brief pause at the top and a wickedly powerful downswing. Perhaps you recognize the name — yes, Young was one of the few players pushing Pereira in the final round at Southern Hills. I caught Young last year during his peak, on the back end of consecutive wins, carding four rounds of 68 or better to win by five. He had my attention.
Pro golf can be a lot like that — pros hitting their peaks, grabbing our attention for a minute and seeing how long they can hold it. Even the most ardent golf fans know, after seeing hundreds of swings and hundreds of names, there are only so many players you can keep top of mind. In Evanston that day, Mito came and went. Young made an impression.
The lesson here is that whenever an event concludes, even with a brand-name pro prevailing — as it did Sunday with the No. 7 player in the world lifting the trophy — it’s hard to tell whether these guys are coming to stay, or coming and going. It’s easy to doubt the dudes who falter on Sunday, confident that we know exactly what we’re looking at as it’s happening.
It would feel natural to do that with Pereira. Just know that a year ago, he left Evanston and blitzed the next two Korn Ferry tournaments he played in, earning his Tour card the best way possible: by winning.
The path less taken
By Alan Bastable
There were two shots that defined this PGA Championship: Justin Thomas’ glorious tee shot on the second playoff hole — a 302-yard par-4 — a high, gently fading 3-wood that bounced once in front of the green and rolled to 35 feet from the hole.
And Mito Pereira’s stunning block into the creek on the 72nd hole, a swing that ultimately cost him a chance at his first major title.
But there was at least one other shot that deserves reexamination: Will Zalatoris’ cart-path chip.
Perhaps you missed it, as it came early in the final round, when Zalatoris was playing the par-3 6th hole. After nuking a 5-iron into the shrubs behind the green, Zalatoris found himself in a PhD-grade rules discussion with the official in his group. When the particulars about where he should drop were finally sorted, Zalatoris faced a chip not only off the cart path behind the green but from a seam that connected two slabs of the path. This is not a shot you practice because it’s not a shot you could ever imagine encountering.
Will Z. could have easily caught it fat. He didn’t. He could have just as easily caught it thin. He didn’t. Instead, he caught it perfectly: a soft spinny chip that landed just short of the green and trundled onto the surface before stopping 12 feet right of the hole. The ensuing putt wasn’t easy, either — a nervy left-edger — but Zalatoris holed it. Some bogeys are better than others. This was an all-worlder.
On Sunday evening, Zalatoris called it “the best up-and-down I’ve ever had.”
The importance of owning losses
By Luke Kerr-Dineen
Perhaps the worst part being of a professional athlete is having to rehash the bad days in public. It’s not a particularly pleasant task, and we can all empathize. We all have bad days at work. The last thing we want to do when we get at home is to talk about it more.
This week, we saw multiple high-profile players opt for that route. Jordan Spieth didn’t speak to the media after any of his tournament rounds. Nor did Jon Rahm. Rory McIlroy skipped the task after his third and fourth rounds, as did world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler after his second-round 75.
While I can’t muster much indignation for grown adults making their own choices, I couldn’t help but admire Mito Pereira, answering questions from the media on Sunday after what was undoubtedly the most devastating loss of his career. Or think about Tiger Woods who, in pain and disappointed with his play, spoke with reporters after each of his three rounds
It’s an easy, more expedient choice to skulk away under the radar on the bad days. But I don’t think it’s the better choice.
The beauty and the burden of golf is that those who play get to own it all. The good shots and the bad shots. The impressive rounds and the embarrassing ones. When players — whatever level they play — divorce themselves from that reality, they’re simply selling themselves short. They’re cultivating an attitude where their successes become excesses, and their mistakes go unaccounted for and overlooked. It’s a mindset ripe for complacency, and one that breeds excuses.
Standing tall and looking at those losses in the mirror, even when you least want to, is essential to growing into more than you already are. It sharpens the mind and toughens the spirit. It makes you stronger and smarter and more disciplined.
And it makes the good times, when they do come, all the more delightful.