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August 14, 2017

Another Young Gun Wins a Major

The PGA Championship was a grand climax to an interesting major championship season. Another young gun, Justin Thomas, emerged with the title that puts him in the ranks of the elite players in the game. Grandson of a PGA professional and son of a PGA professional, the PGA of America couldn't ask for a better representative to be their champion.

Quail Hallow Golf Club emerged as the other winner this week. It proved to be a major championship quality golf course that was tough, but would yield if you hit the proper shots. The rough was penal, but the width of the fairway was generous enough to not take the driver out of the hands of the players. Championship courses should require accuracy, both on driving and approach shots. The winning score of eight under is a good indication of the strength of the golf course that was not tricked up or hampered by severe weather conditions.

As the final round started, the leaderboard had only one player with a major title that had a realistic chance of winning. Winning a major validates your career and gives you a label that goes with you throughout your life. So there was a lot of pressure on these relatively inexperienced players vying for this elusive prize. At one point there were five players at 7 under par tied for the lead on the back nine. Quickly they started to drop away and Justin chipped in on 13 to get to 8 under. He could've put the tournament away on the relatively easy drivable 14th and the reachable par five 15th. But he hit poor shots and had to settle for pars. A beautiful bunker shot and clutch 8 foot putt saved his par on 16. Looking back on Justin's last five holes, only the 17th hole birdie was a well-played hole. Although it wasn't an artistic success, he did what he needed and didn't fold to the pressure. A more experienced Justin Thomas, in ten years and maybe a couple more majors, would've finished this tournament off more stylishly. Justin was the best player this week and some of his troubles down the stretch should be attributed to the golf course.

Hideki Matsuyama had a two shot lead at one point but had five bogies on the back nine. The tournament leader most of the week, Kevin Kisner had three bogies and a double when it mattered the most. Ricky Fowler, again was too little too late. Good finish, but never in contention. Patrick Reed made a valiant effort down the stretch, but couldn't find the fairway on the last hole and then made a terrible choice of club for his pitch that ended any chance for a win. Francesco Molinari lost his chance on 16 and Louis Oosthuizen's long birdie putt on 18 only made it look close. The golf course took its toll in the end and produced a player that could navigate the dangers. Justin was Jordan Spieth's equal or a little bit better record wise coming into professional golf. With this win it may springboard him to even further heights.

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