As PGA Championship nears enthralling finish, low scores are running rampant at Valhalla

As PGA Championship nears enthralling finish, low scores are running rampant at Valhalla

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Galleries have favorites. They’ll follow along and shout more for certain players, but for the most part, they’re not rooting for one golfer to succeed at the expense of another.

They’re rooting against the golf course.

They’ll plead with shots to go or sit or turn to avoid trouble. They’ll groan when the ball stubbornly doesn’t listen or if a putt misses. They’ll roar if it drops in the cup. It creates a feel of community, like everyone out there is in this together against this onerous game, and that the strength of collective will, just maybe, can create beautiful golf.

In that sense, the fans at Valhalla have done a heck of job these past three days.

More accurately, though, it has been the damp conditions, soft greens and meager winds that have allowed golfers to continually assault this poor golf course at the 2024 PGA Championship.

How much has the talent run the first three rounds of this production?

Two of the five 62s, tied for the lowest-ever round in any major championship, have been scored in this tournament. And neither of the golfers that did it – Xander Schauffele nor Shane Lowry – holds the outright lead entering Sunday’s final round.

After Saturday, Schauffele and Collin Morikawa are tied for first at 15-under-par with Sahith Theegala (14 under) right behind them, but don’t read too much into that.

This is anyone’s major tournament to grab.

A total of 15 players are at 10 under or better entering Sunday. Before this week, seven was the most golfers any major championship had with double-digits under par scores through 54 holes.

Previously: Xander Schauffele off to historic start at PGA Championship. Can he finally seal the deal?

“It just doesn’t matter what golf course you put us on on planet earth, if the greens are soft, we’re going to tear it up,” Justin Thomas said. “It just doesn’t have anything to defend itself.”

Thomas, a hometown hero in Louisville and former PGA Champion, has been playing from behind the past three days, but after scores of 69, 67, 67, he’s hanging around at 10 under, only five back of the leaders.

A lot of golfers are hanging around to challenge Schauffele, who’s looking for his first major championship after opening with that 62 in Thursday’s first round.

Schauffele said Friday that there’s “blood in the water,” with a score that low being a signal to the other golfers that rounds like that are out there to be had in a major championship.

“Everyone kind of laughed,” Schauffele said, “and then Shane Lowry almost shot 61 today. Yeah, I imagine someone in that threshold now that it’s been done twice is going to shoot something low and post a number early (on Sunday).”

On Saturday, Lowry missed a putt on No. 18 for an up-and-down that would have given him the all-time low-round major record outright.

“Probably the most disappointed anyone can ever be shooting 62,” said Lowry, whose ear-to-ear smile afterward gave away that he wasn’t all that upset. “… I enjoyed every minute of it, obviously.”

The Irishman caught fire early Saturday, as did European Ryder Cup teammate Justin Rose, who was playing alongside him. Rose’s 64 moved him up 16 spots and into a tie for seventh at 12 under.

Lowry’s 62 moved him up 25 spots and into a tie for fourth at 13 under – with Viktor Hovland and the LIV Tour’s Bryson DeChambeau, who chipped on for eagle on the 18th hole, providing one of third round’s more memorable moments.

“Exhilarating,” DeChambeau said. “I haven’t felt like that in a long time.”

A lot of golfers have been saying such things this week. It has been their kind of week. They’ve been playing offense in Louisville, delighting galleries and attacking holes aggressively.

They’ll be doing it again Sunday. No other choice if they want to win.

“There’s so many guys on the leaderboard,” Hovland said. “So you kind of have to get something going early or you have to make some birdies out there to shoot a low one and separate yourself.”

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