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PGA Championship 2024: What do you believe?

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Andrew Redington

May 18, 2024

LOUISVILLE — It’s Saturday night, and all that matters is if you believe. In your game and command of it. In yourself. That all the work and travel and struggle and sacrifices have gifted this moment, and you have the gumption and fortitude to make the most of it before it’s gone.

Major championships usually require more, acting as tests that ask questions that can be answered in multiple fashions. Not here at the 2024 PGA Championship. Valhalla Golf Club is too straightforward, and its roadmap is singular. What defenses the course has have been down. Everyone with a viable chance to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy has the tools and talent to execute; whether they will is a matter of the soul.

Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele are tied atop the PGA Championship board at 15 under with 18 holes remaining, although that doesn’t mean much. Not with six formidable competitors within three shots of the lead. It will take a special type of belief to look at this congested board and think your name will be the one above the rest.

So the question is, what do these players believe?

Does Morikawa believe he can be as good as he once was? It wasn’t that long ago Morikawa was the next big thing, two major wins in two consecutive years before age 25. Since he captured the claret jug in 2021 he’s won just once and he’s quietly slipped from stardom. Just look at the Official World Golf Ranking, where Morikawa—No. 2 at one point just two years ago—had fallen outside the top 20, a drop that doesn’t seem that bad until remembering the dozen or so LIV players that no longer really factor into the OWGR equation. But there have been signs of a comeback, starting with a T-3 at the Masters last month, and Morikawa has shown Augusta wasn’t an aberration through three days in Louisville. A third major title—in just 18 major starts—would return Morikawa to the upward trajectory he rode not long ago.

“I've just got to be focused on myself,” Morikawa said. “Look, I've played against all these guys. It's not like any of these guys are new. They all have their accolades within themselves, and really anyone can go low. But I'm going to put everything I have. I learned a lot over this past month, over these past two years, over the past five years of being a pro, and we're going to really just … going to have a talk with myself.

“I think everything that I've gone through over the past couple years, I'm ready for these moments. A month ago, I felt like I was ready. Made a couple errors. Tomorrow hopefully we're not.”

Does Schauffele believe the whispers? The ones that mutter, “He’s good, really good … except when it matters,” and the whispers are not wrong. He’s a regular presence on the game’s biggest stages yet to this point he’s not been the final actor bowing to the crowd, and without a trophy the times in contention can be viewed as an indictment on his ability in the clutch. Yet all it takes is one title to silence those whispers for good, and Sunday provides Schauffele his best chance to rewrite the story.

“Just like any other tournament for the most part,” Schauffele said. “It's another Sunday. I typically love Sundays. I think I need to really just stay in my lane and do a lot of what I've been doing and just worry about myself.”

Does Viktor Hovland believe he’s back from the wilderness? He was arguably the best player in golf last fall, winning the FedEx Cup and delivering a remarkable showing in the Europeans’ runaway victory at the Ryder Cup. This season, Hovland has been a guy who knows he is lost but has no idea how to get back, going so far as to drop out of a signature event because he no longer had faith in making solid contact. Through three days at Valhalla, the young Norwegian has looked like his old self—and it’s no coincidence that he recently reunited with swing coach Joe Mayo last week. He will have the chance at redemption after falling just short at last year’s PGA to Brooks Koepka.

“I'm surprised in the sense that … just how far away I felt last week,” said Hovland, who entered the week 89th in the FedEx Cup. “But I'm not surprised in the way that I'm here because, like, I never doubted my abilities. It was just kind of my machinery was not working very well. But as soon as I get the machine kind of somewhere on track, I can play. Like there's nothing wrong with me mentally, I never doubted I couldn't play golf anymore. It's just like the technique was not good enough to compete. But now we're moving in the right direction. So I already saw it was better a few days ago right before I was playing the tournament. I thought, we can maybe do some damage this week.

“But this has exceeded all expectations. That's for sure.”

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Andrew Redington

Does Bryson DeChambeau believe he’s still the paradigm shifter, the one who threatened to break golf only to become somewhat of a side attraction in the ensuing years? The former beefy boy may be an afterthought to much of the golf populace due to his defection to LIV Golf, and his reputation had gone sideways well before then. Yet DeChambeau has been one of the 10 best players in the sport over the last six months, according to DataGolf. He’s also quietly been in the mix at majors, posting a T-6 at this year’s Masters and a T-4 at the 2023 PGA. A chip-in eagle at the 18th Saturday leaves DeChambeau just two off the lead, and a good day tomorrow could put him halfway to the career Grand Slam.

“Exhilarating. I haven't felt like that in a long time,” DeChambeau said. “The only other time I felt like it was when I shot 58 at Greenbrier. That was pretty exciting there. I was pretty pumped.” DeChambeau later added: "As I look forward to, I would say just tomorrow and the future, it just seems so much more positive than where I was.”

Does Shane Lowry believe that he’s more than a one-major wonder? He started the day way outside the fire, eight shots behind the lead with nearly 30 players between him and there. He responded with 29 on the front and gave himself a 12-footer for a chance at the first 61 in major championship history. That putt didn’t drop, but his 62 placed him in the penultimate group. It was a blessing, yet also a burden, for following up a virtuoso performance is one of the hardest tasks in golf.

Does Sahith Theegala believe he’s on the precipice of a breakthrough? He’s been one of the better players on tour in 2024, ranking sixth in strokes gained and fifth in the FedEx Cup. Theegala has the facility to be a star and the personality and character to make that star brighter. He also admitted earlier this week that he looks at the world’s best golfers deems a disparity in their games and that he feels like an imposter: among them, but not of them. Sunday will give Theegala the chance to see how good he can be.

Does Justin Rose believe he can turn back the clock? Does Robert MacIntyre believe he can make Sunday a national holiday in Scotland? Does Rory McIlroy think he can do something ridiculous? Does Justin Thomas believe he can conjure a comeback from five back for his third PGA win and one in front of his hometown crowd?

“Everybody has a scenario that runs in their head of them potentially winning the tournament, but how that happens, you don't know,” Thomas said after a Saturday 67. “But I feel like I'm fully capable of that of how I'm playing, and it would be nice to have a chance there on the back nine.”

Do you believe that Valhalla, despite its perceived ills and all the oddities of this week, will do what it has done in its previous PGA parties and present one heck of a finale?

It should be noted that belief is not far removed from hope, and while hope is what makes life worth living it’s also the hope that gets ya. Maybe that’s why Morikawa, Schauffele and DeChambeau were on the range late Saturday night, doing everything in their power to not leave fate to chance. Because a dream will be fulfilled Sunday, and in order for someone to win the PGA Championship, they must believe they can.

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