T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Block wins National Championship in first attempt
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- The only time Michael Block ever had a share of the lead in the 47th PGA Professional National Championship was when he walked off the 72nd hole.
After watching Jamie Broce make bogey on Wednesday, Block had a beautiful par save from the sand to tie for the lead at 2-under 286.
Two holes later, in a sudden-death playoff, he knocked in a 4-footer for birdie at the par-4 10th hole to become the 2014 Champion in his very first trip to the National Championship.
"Jamie had the pressure on him," said Block, the 38-year-old PGA head professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif. "I started the day three shots behind. So, if I came back great, but I didn't have any pressure to win it. It's amazing to me, because I wasn't leading that tournament for one second until that final putt dropped on No. 18."
As it turns out, Block's lone sub-par round for the week came in Round 2 when he shot a 3-under 69 at Grande Dunes. His scores at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club looked like this: 73-72-72.
Block became just the ninth player to win the National Championship in his first attempt and the first since Matt Dobyns did so in 2012.
A crucial point on Wednesday came when Block bounced back with a birdie at No. 16 after making bogey at 15. That helped him stay just one shot behind Broce with two holes to play.
Then it came down to a short game contest. Both players found the front left greenside bunker on the 18th hole. Block got up and down. Broce didn't.
"I feel bad for Jamie," Block said. "He had it. That putt for par on the last regulation hole on 18 was perfect. Some grain got it, it hit the lip and lipped out up the hill. It was halfway down the hole. Then all of the sudden, it opened up, here we are tied going into a playoff and honestly it was a win-win for me at that point -- I was going to the PGA Championship, I had a nice check and everything was hunky dory at that point."
Block said he felt no pressure whatsoever in the playoff and it showed when he hit a 56-degree sand wedge from 120 yards out to within a few feet of the hole to set up the winning birdie.
"I was more calm in that playoff than I am playing at home in a Skins match with my boys," he said.
When Block heads to Valhalla in August for the PGA Championship, it will mark his second start in a major. He also qualified for the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont.
"It hasn't set in at all yet that I'm the National Champion and I'm going to be representing the 27,000 PGA Professionals at the PGA Championship," Block said. "I've been doing a really good job in the Southern California Section in the last two years. Let's just say I've won a lot of events. It's given me a lot of confidence. When I know that I can win a lot in Southern California, which is pretty big, I know I can compete nationally. My goal this week was to put my name on the national stage and not just in Southern California."