Chris Stroud is in position to win in consecutive weeks and cement himself in PGA Championship history.
A bogey-bogey finish on Quail Hollow’s demanding Green Mile wasn’t enough to bump Chris Stroud from the final pairing at Sunday’s PGA Championship.
Coming into the tournament with confidence from his first career PGA TOUR win last week at the Barracuda Championship in Reno, the 35-year-old is at seven-under par through 54 holes and one stroke behind leader, Kevin Kisner. He posted an even-par 71 on Saturday.
Stroud described how he’s feeling going into Sunday to ASAP Sports:
"I’ve dreamed about this for years, so it’s in there. I know all these guys are going to be super nervous. I’m sure I will be, too. Last week just gave me an unbelievable sense of calm. I’ve never felt so relaxed on the golf course and I think it’s a lot of reason why I’m playing so well."
That sense of calm could propel him to etching his name in the history books. At world No. 202, Stroud would be the lowest ranked player to win the PGA Championship in the Official World Golf Ranking era (1986) since Shaun Micheel won in 2003 at No. 169.
Stroud would also become the first to win a major the week after winning an alternate field event.
Only two have won a tournament the week before winning the PGA, Tiger Woods in 2007 and Rory McIlroy in 2014. Both were at the WGC-Bridgestone Championship.
Hideki Matsuyama is at six-under and could go back-to-back after his Bridgestone win last week.
Stroud waited a long 11 years as a professional before his breakthrough PGA Tour win. He’s in position to keep striking while the iron’s hot.
Stroud in stride
Stroud largely relied on his short game and putting to scrape it around Quail Hollow Saturday.
"I just hung in there. It was just kind of a scrappy round. Didn’t hit a lot of great drives. Hit some good ones. Hit some good shots when I needed to. Made some great pars early. Wish I would have snuck away with a couple pars the last two holes, but I’ve got a chance tomorrow."
Stroud hit 10 of 14 fairways, which actually topped his marks of seven and eight in the first two rounds. He mustered just 10 greens in regulation Saturday, a low for the week.
A 3-for-3 mark on sand saves and a third straight day of a positive strokes gained mark (0.669) helped Stroud roll in crucial par putts throughout the round. He’s second in strokes gained putting for the week.
He and Kisner both fell victim to bad putting luck on No. 16:
Stroud’s misses were equally important as his hits.
The Texan was one of few to avoid the water Saturday, which plagued Kisner and Rickie Fowler (-1, T12), among other contenders.
Stroud has made no worse than bogey all week.
"I didn’t really hit a lot of great shots but I didn’t really hit a lot of really bad shots. My bad shots were in play. Especially off the tee. I hit a few loose drives, but I was always playable and I made a lot of great up-and-downs, especially early."
He caught fire in the middle of the round, carding birdies on Nos. 5, 7 and 8 sandwiched by a bogey on No. 6.
Closing it out
From the looks of it, a first-time major championship winner is likely to be crowned Sunday night. Louis Oosthuizen (-5, T4) is the only player in the top 15 with a major in pocket.
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Stroud’s only played in eight major championships and never sniffed contention. Kisner is more decorated at No. 25 in the world and No. 9 in the FedEx Cup, but his career success is relatively recent. His two PGA TOUR wins have come since last season. This will be his first 54-hole lead in a major.
Many are touting world No. 2 Matsuyama as the Sunday favorite, but his putter will have to stand up to the Sunday heat.
Stroud came from several groups ahead of the leaders to get into a playoff last week.
While he won’t need a furious rally to surge past Kisner, he’s harkening back to what worked well in Reno.
"Don’t mess up the streak. Like Kevin Costner says in Bull Durham, one of my favorite movies, don’t mess up the streak. I have the same everything I have last week. I have the same swing thoughts as last week, I have the same everything. I have the same routine warming up. I’m not going to change anything."
If Stroud hoists the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday, his life won’t ever be the same.
The final round of the PGA Championship begins Sunday, August 18, at 8:05am. Chris Stroud and Kevin Kisner, the final group, tee off at 2:45pm. Follow this link for all final round pairings and tee times. TNT begins final round broadcast coverage at 11am and CBS takes over at 2pm. All times ET.