Chris Stroud floating on cloud nine at PGA Championship

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Chris Stroud floating on cloud nine at PGA Championship

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Look up and down the list of the players who will compete Sunday in the final round of the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow and you'll find plenty with feel-good stories. 

None, however, might be cooler than that of 35-year-old Chris Stroud.

Stroud will begin the final day of play in a rare position — very much in contention. He's a shot back of third-round leader Kevin Kisner at -6.

Before this week, Stroud had made eight major starts. He made the cut in only two of those. His best finish was a T47 at the 2010 U.S. Open.

Heck, if it weren't for what he did last Sunday, he wouldn't even be here this week.

Stroud won on the PGA Tour for the first time last week at the Barracuda Championship, outlasting Greg Owen and Richy Werenski in a playoff to earn the final spot in the field at Quail Hollow. 

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It took Stroud 13 years and 290 PGA Tour starts before his breakthrough in Reno.

And to think, just last fall he thought about stepping away from the game. 

"About six months ago, I said, ‘I’ve had 10 years of good run out here,'" Stroud said before his third round on Saturday. "'I’ve played well. I don’t care if I win anymore. I’m going to play the best I can and let’s just ride this out. I don’t know if I’m good enough to win or keep my card.’

“Since I surrendered to that it’s like all of a sudden the weight was off my shoulders," he continued. "All these people told me this for years, but I had to get to the bottom to figure it out. I literally said, ‘I’m done. I’m just going to do the best I can and have as much fun as I can.’ All of a sudden it falls in my lap.”

Stroud thought he'd be back home this week in Houston after playing five consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour. Instead, he's in Charlotte with a chance to make it two wins in as many starts and claim his first major title. 

“When I was 9 years old, I knew I wanted to be on the PGA Tour,’’ Stroud said. “It was a dream. When I got out here, my dream was to win. It’s at least a 20-year dream come true.”

And the "feels" don't stop there when it comes to Stroud.

Since his victory, he estimates he's received 1,400 text messages, 55 voicemails and about 100 emails congratulating him.

“I have replied to every single one of them,” Stroud said the other day. “I’m a big believer in that. I told a few guys after golf is gone and done for me, all you have left is people and the relationships you have. I care more about people than I do about my golf.”

You can bet Stroud won't mind going through that whole process again Sunday night, this time with the Wanamaker Trophy by his side.