PGA Thoughts & Comments

Mito, oh no!

Mito Pereira led the final round of the PGA Championship for 17 holes, and he stood on the 18th tee as the leader needing a par to win. He made double and finished tied for third. A lot of critics have blamed his decision to hit driver on the 72nd hole with a major hanging in the balance. Well 3-wood doesn’t take bogey out of the equation. The creek that runs down the right starts at 265. Every single player in the field can hit their 3 wood downhill 265 yards. What happened was the stage was too big for the young player and he made a terrible swing. The 18th hole at Southern Hills is tough because you have to be far enough down the fairway to get a clear shot of the green. If not, you are cut off by overhanging trees on the right side. Mito ripped stinger drivers for 3 ½ days and was among the leaders in total driving for the week. JT hit a stinger fade with driver in the playoff. Driver was the play. The execution was just poor. Props to Pereira however for being respectful and gracious in accepting every single media request after his round. Next time he is in a similar position, he’ll to better.

Brass Bones

“You’re one the best players in the world and you’re constantly in contention. Now quit messing around and relax.” This was just a snippet of caddy Bones Mackay’s pep talk to Justin Thomas before the final round of the PGA Championship. Bones is known most notably for his career as the looper for Phil Mickelson. He spent 2 seasons as an on-course analyst and reporter for NBC/Golf Channel before returning to the tour to caddie full-time for JT in September of 2021.

Bones quickly became one of my favorite commentators due to his experience and perspective but also is engaging personality and articulate explanations of shots and situations. With 5 majors and 45 wins under his belt, he brought something totally different to the viewer. He has brought something different and special to Justin Thomas. “I told my wife the only player I’d return to caddie for was JT. He has more shots than anyone on tour,” said Mackay.

“It’s a hard golf course. It’s a major. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to stay positive and be patient and good things will happen.” Bones was 100% right. Because not only is JT a shotmaker, he has become the game’s best grinder. Perhaps that has rubbed off from his big brother relationship with one Tiger Woods – the game’s greatest grinder. Thomas was on the bad side of the draw when it came to the wind and conditions on Thursday and Friday. But he never complained. He accepted it and played with what was presented to him. Friday’s 67 was one of the best 67’s you’ll ever see, and Sunday’s 67 was just as remarkable.

On the par 3 6th hole, JT hit the dreaded s-word. A cold, hard, shank. Instead of pouting, and carrying on, and worrying that he just lost his chance at major #2, he smiled and laughed it off. He found himself 108 yards, dead right off the tee to an area not even mapped by Shotlink. He made what he called “the best bogey of his life” since giving up a shot on a tough par 3 wasn’t the end of the world.

The job of a caddie is a tough one. The job of a good caddie is even tougher. They wear many different hats. A good caddie is a friend, a psychologist, a punching bag, and the head coach all in one. Thomas’ 2nd PGA Championship win has as much to do with his relationship with Bones as it has to do with his world-class talent. JT ripped a stinger fade driver on the last hole of the playoff with a one-stroke lead. The conversation with Bones prior to the shot is what led to that shot being executed perfectly. Bones was methodical, positive, and trustworthy. Hell, I felt like I could hit the shot after listening to him.

Thank You Tiger

Tiger tried. He always does. There’s never been a bigger or better “tryer” in the game. Buy trying got the best of him after 54 holes last week and he withdrew for the final round. His 69 on Friday was the greatest form of grinding one out I had ever seen. He could have easily shot something in the high 70’s, but missing the cut never entered his mind. Saturday the weather took its toll as the temperature dropped 30 degrees and the winds picked up.

Southern Hills is not an easy walk. The hill from the elevated 1st tee is more of a cliff. Tiger was clearly in pain, and throwing in the towel was the only move to make in order to avoid further injury. We don’t know when we’ll see him play again. St. Andrews in July is a flat and easy walk, and we know of his successes and love of that place. What I do know is that Tiger Woods owes us nothing.

He has entertained and spoiled us with his gifts for 25 years. We truly won’t know just how lucky we were to be able to witness the Tiger Woods era until its long over. Tiger has given so much of himself to the game of golf. Physically, sure, he looks like a D1 tight end. But inside he is an old man filled with screws and bolts. We’re hearing a lot of people around the game say Tiger just can’t tee it up at the majors and expect to play well. He needs reps. Well what if his body no longer allows the reps? The marathon practice days at Medalist and playing 3 out of 4 weeks is no longer possible. So what can Tiger do? He can try. He always does. Best “tryer” of all time.

Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect

Nobody has ever perfected the game of golf, nor will it ever happen. Somebody can hit every fairway and every green. They can even birdie every hole, but somewhere the lipped out for eagle. And that isn’t a perfect round is it? Ben Hogan once said in a good round of golf he’ll hit maybe 6 perfect shots. He said good round of golf. We’re talking a 67 or 66. He hits maybe 10% of the shots perfect.

I always tell my students the key to becoming a better player is not how good your good shots are, but how good your bad ones are. Your miss used to be a 50 yard slice out of play. Now it’s only 20 yards offline and just off the fairway, etc. A good round of golf is full of good breaks, good bounces, and good fortune. Quit trying to be perfect. As you practice and become better you’ll hit more good shots than bad, sure. But you’ll never be perfect. It’s tough when a student hits 4 good and pure shots in a row then chunks one and puts their head down in defeat. “Well what I do there?” they ask. What do you want me to say, that you’re a 22 handicap and it happens? You made a bad swing. Now make the next one better. If you chunk 6 shots in a row then we have a gameplan for a lesson. But if you hit a bad shot in the middle of a session the world hasn’t ended. Relax. Lighten up. Enjoy the process.

Enjoy the game and each other,

Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional