Category - Major Events
Five Things to Know After Two Days at the PGA Championship
It’s been an action-packed two days at Oak Hill Country Club, with plenty of highlights coming from around the shimmering East Course during the first two rounds. Corey Conners, Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler all sit at 5-under to lead the PGA Championship, with 15 players within five shots of first place.
As competitors who made the cut prep for a weekend in Rochester, here are a few things to keep an eye from the opening days of the 2023 PGA Championship:
A Star-Studded Leaderboard Shuffle
There was plenty of intrigue going into the week about who would win at Oak Hill. With a renovated East Course playing host, a majority of competitors were seeing the layout for the first time. While Bryson DeChambeau’s Round 1 66 and Brooks Koepka’s Round 2 66 were the lowest rounds, no one particularly separated themselves from the field — making for a bunched leaderboard.
As these players know though, a lot of golf is still left to be played. And a place like Oak Hill, you need a bit of tunnel vision.
“I'm in a good position going into the weekend,” says co-leader Scheffler, who’s won twice already this year. “With that being said, I’m going to keep my head down and keep doing what I’m doing.”
And the way Scheffler is going, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, there could be a certain silver trophy in his future.
Block pushes into history with second round performance
In case you didn’t hear, a PGA Club Professional was within one shot of the lead today at Oak Hill — an amazing feat, considering the best position ever in Championship history after 36 holes was a tie for 13th (Grant Sturgeon, PGA, in 2009).
Well, that record is officially broken. And Michael Block, PGA, is the one responsible for the history-making feat.
Block, the PGA Head Professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, California, fired back-to-back 70s to finish tied for 10th at even par and only five shots off the lead of Conners, Hovland and Scheffler. The Southern California PGA Member was lighting up social media and the East Course early on Friday, birdieing three of his first five holes to get it to 3-under.
The front nine was a different story. After a birdie on No. 1, Block bogeyed the fourth and then hit a shocking shank off the fifth tee box, which ricocheted off a tree back into play. He ended up with a double, which erased any birdies, but steadied the ship with pars to stay at even.
Block has a stamp on his ball that says, “Why not?” Perhaps it was a quick look at that stamp today — and his mantra of “spiraling upwards” — that kept him California cool in the major championship spotlight.
“A long time ago I questioned myself over every shot like most people do,” Block says. “I was coming close to winning a tournament. Why not win? Why not just clip this, spin it to the right three feet, and make the putt? Why not?”
And for Block this week, the ultimate “Why not?” would be to win.
“I’m going to compete,” he says “I promise you that.”
Conners feeling the Canadian love
Joining Hovland and Scheffler at the top is Conners, who’s made nine birdies to get into a unique yet familiar position for him so far in his career — co-leading a major championship.
He’s not far from his hometown of Listowel, Ontario, which is just four hours across the northern border from Rochester. And there’s been plenty of Canadian support around the course for him given the proximity.
“It's been a pretty special week so far,” says Conners, who won at the Valero Texas Open a few months ago. “I think being so close to Canada, there's a lot of Canadians fans out here. They're cheering me on. That definitely feels good.”
Conners has been one of the best ballstrikers on the PGA TOUR since he made his debut, and that skill will come in handy this weekend as the pressure ratchets up and he looks for his first major. His putting, which hasn’t always been a strength, has showed up in key moments, too — and that’s always important on the big stage.
“I think just getting experience in the situation is helpful,” adds Conners. “I have lots of confidence in my game, feel good, and am having fun out there.”
Oak Hill sparkles as host venue
It’s been a pleasure to finally see the East Course. It’s long-awaited arrival as a PGA Championship host venue after being renovated by Andrew Green has been well worth the wait — emerald green fairways, lush rough and Donald Ross’ signature greens, hummocks, and bunkering style.
One walk around the course and golf fans are completely enamored with the layout from start to finish. The 14th and 15th hole on the second nine are two of the more interesting holes on the course and will be pivotal this weekend. So far, the 14th has been a short par-4 that’s been drivable for most players and in the second round, the 15th played only 131 yards with a tucked pin in a small bowl, waiting for approaches to roll back near the hole.
Those two holes are after the signature 13th, where the Hill of Fame at Oak Hill resides, and provide an excellent viewing area for fans coming out of the weekend — the PGA Member Club is even on No. 14.
Regardless of the hole, it’s clear Oak Hill’s new East Course does one thing: It delivers.
Rochester shows out for its fourth PGA Championship
The excitement for this week has been bubbling for years around Rochester, New York, and fans have come out in droves every day so far at Oak Hill. It adds another level of excitement for the PGA Championship when the enthusiasm is high for an event.
The anticipation has even made its way to the locker room of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, who’ve had their star quarterback Josh Allen and teammates out on the grounds of Oak Hill taking in the action. Allen is massive golf nut and with OTAs not starting until next week, the Bills players are soaking in all the PGA Championship has to offer.
As are the non-NFL quarterbacks, too. Because when the PGA Championship comes to town, Rochester, much like its crown jewel Oak Hill, always delivers.