Paul Claxton punches ticket to first PGA Championship with top-5 finish at PPC

By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
Connect with T.J.

Series: PGA

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 | 9:31 p.m.

SUNRIVER, Oregon -- Paul Claxton from Claxton, Ga. -- just a coincidence, "my wife is from Claxton and she said that's where we were going to live" -- is headed to his first PGA Championship.

Claxton, 49, spent four seasons on the PGA Tour and has more than $1,800,000 in career earnings on the Web.com Tour, second all-time.

For the last two years, however, he's been working at Hawk's Point Golf Club in Vidalia, Ga. as a club professional.

In his first crack at the PGA Professional Championship, Claxton finished 72 holes at 2-under 285 to easily qualify for the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow -- a course he's a little bit familiar with.

RELATED: PPC leaderboard | Photos | O'Brien inspired by caddie's cancer battle

"I played in the Tour event there a couple of times, so I know the golf course a little bit and it's pretty close to home, so that's a nice thing -- to be able to play in a major close to home," he said. "I'm excited about that."

Claxton had the lead for a stretch on Wednesday after making birdie on five consecutive holes (Nos. 7-11).

"I was in the zone, as they say," Claxton said. "Things were going well. I hit some good shots, made some good putts. It was in the part of the golf course where I had a couple of par 5s and a short par 4, so I was in the scoring area of the golf course. Things were going pretty good, but then the wind got up and it played very tough coming in."

The trouble started on the 449-yard, par-4 14th. Claxton found the right rough with his tee shot and decided to take a crack at the green with a rescue club.

"I had a flier lie and I had my rescue club," he explained. "I felt like if I could just get some air under it, that I could knock it on the green or over the green and make 5 at worst. Coming out of the rough, you never know what it's going to do. It knuckled on me and I never got any air under it (and it flew into the hazard). It was probably a poor decision, but I made a nice bogey. That hole was playing like a par 5 today anyway, so I was feeling OK getting out of there with a bogey."

Claxton would also bogey holes 16 and 17 at Crosswater to finish with a 1-under 71 for the day.

"I'm looking forward to the PGA Championship," he said. "That was my goal coming out here, so I'm very pleased that I was able to do that. I've never played in one, so I'm looking forward to it... I've been working in a shop for two years, so I was leaking a little oil coming in. I need to work on my game a little bit before I head to Quail Hollow. It was fun to get in the hunt and feel a little pressure. It lets me know that I have some work to do and that's OK. I enjoy practicing and hopefully I'll get to do some more of it." 

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.