Justin Thomas took the title with a final-round score of 68 and a total of -8 in the PGA Championship on Sunday, August 13, 2017 at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. This was Thomas’ first major title. This marked a season where there was a first-time winner of each major in 2017.
Kevin Kisner began the final round in the lead at -7. Two players, Hidecki Matsuyama and Chris Stroud, started one stroke behind Kisner. Kisner played alongside Stroud for the final round pairing. Thomas played with Matsuyama just ahead of Kisner and Stroud.
Stroud dropped a stroke with a bogey on the first hole, and made par the next two holes, while Kisner parred all three. He had a fourth par to stay even, while Stroud came back with a birdie to get back to where the two began after four holes.
They both parred the next hole, then on the par-three sixth, Stroud hit into trouble and Kisner hit the green with a great tee shot to within 12 feet for a birdie putt. He rolled the ball to an inch short for a sixth par. After a great shot out of the sand by Stroud to about seven feet away, he missed the putt to drop another shot and go to -5.
In the meantime, Matsuyama was making a move in the group ahead. He birded the seventh hole to pull into a tie with Kisner at -7, just as Kisner was approaching the tee for the seventh. Kisner hit his second shot into the water shot of the green. After the penalty drop, he hit his fourth shot close enough to save par. But he missed the 15-foot putt for his first bogey of the day. He dropped to -6, and out of first as Matsuyama parred hole eight to remain at -7 and take the lead.
Kisner struggled to a par on the eighth hole, while Stroud birdied the hole to pull to a tie for second. After a drive into the rough on hole nine, Stroud hit a wonderful shot to the green and within birdie range. He nailed the putt to tie Matsuyama for the lead.
As the final pair walked to the 10th tee, Matsuyama again took the lead by himself with a birdie on number 10 to go to -8. Thomas also birdied the 10th and moved to one back at -7. It was set up to be a close contest for the final half of the final round.
Thomas Breaks Through on the Back Nine
Kisner scored a birdie on the 601-yard par-5 10th hole to pull back to -7 and one stroke behind Matsuyama. Stroud parred to stay at -7. There was now a three-way tie for second place with seven holes remaining. Matsuyama bogeyed the 11th hole to fall back to -7, and there was a four-way tie for first place with seven holes remaining. But it wasn’t finished yet. An Italian player, Francisco Molinari birdied the 15th to go to -7, and -5 for the round. Five players, including Thomas, were tied for the lead on the back nine of a major championship!?
The 11th saw the number of leaders shrink to three as both Kisner and Stroud bogeyed to drop back to -6 and second place. The shuffling leader board continued when Matsuyama bogeyed the 12th and Thomas held par and now was tied with only Molinari for the lead at -7. There were also four players at -6 by that time. It looked like anyone could emerge victorious at that point.
However, by the time Kisner and Stroud were on the 12th green, Thomas had another birdie on 13, and claimed sole possession of the lead at -8. He would not relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
The final three holes at Quail Hollow are nicknamed the “Green Mile,” referring to the death row walk of the Stephen King movie. They are ranked as 3 of the most difficult finishing holes anywhere. The “Green Mile” was where Justin Thomas shone when it was needed most. He carded a wonderful birdie on the 17th to go to -9 and hold a three shot lead with only the 18th to play. He finished the final hole with a two putt bogey to capture the Wannamaker Trophy.
Jordan Spieth was attempting an historic completion of the career Grand Slam of golf. He made the cut, but was never in contention after round two. Had he won, Spieth would have been the youngest player ever to win all four of golf’s major tournaments in their career. That record will remain with the great Jack Nicholas.
By D.T. Osborn
Image Courtesy of D.T. Osborn