You wouldn’t be alone if the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow has left you wanting, thus far. But finally, finally — it seems we’re getting the drama golf fans expected when one of the PGA Tour’s top regular tracks received the bid to host 2017’s final major in the first place.
After stumbles from overnight leader Kevin Kisner at the seventh, Hideki Matsuyama holds a one-shot lead heading to the back nine in Charlotte on a muggy North Carolina Sunday afternoon in search of his first major championship. It’s a storyline that should wake up folks across the world, very literally. Japan’s been long-starved for a golf superstar, and they’ve never had a major winner as a country despite a slew of near misses. A Hideki win would be a Big Freaking Deal, so to speak — and that’s putting it lightly. The impact on the game would be massive. He’s at 7-under-par as we head to the back nine, even despite a slow start with the putter on the opening holes.
One problem standing in an entire nation’s way? Big names are crowding Matsuyama at the top of the board. Playing right alongside Matsuyama, Justin Thomas sits just one behind. At just 24, he’d be the next big-time young American star to gain major championship validation — and could win many more. This big putt on the ninth hole pulled him to one behind Matsuyama.
There’s plenty of others right behind or alongside Thomas, too. Kisner’s tied with Thomas and just one behind. Despite a water-ball on the 7th, he hasn’t rolled over one bit — something not unexpected for a calm, cool, & collected multiple-time winner on Tour. Chris Stroud’s still lingering against all odds! Patrick Reed’s surged to 5-under-par. Louis Oosthuizen’s your only major champion in the mix, and is just two back despite battling a wrist injury all through the tournament.
And, oh, yeah. Rickie Fowler’s made four straight birdies — and could have a chance to post the early clubhouse lead. Might 5- or 6-under be good enough with a bunch of guys trying to win their first major title coming down the stretch? It might just be.
Here’s your full leaderboard as we head to the final nine holes of the major championship season.