PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Mito Pereira leads after Saturday shuffle

pga championship: mito pereira leads after saturday shuffle
© Provided by Toronto Sun Mito Pereira of Chile acknowledges the gallery on Saturday during the third round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.

TULSA, Okla. — Players showed up on Saturday to a Southern Hills Golf Club seemingly turned upside down, and Sunday’s final round will begin with a leaderboard that also looks a little upside down, and one without Tiger Woods.

Chilean Mito Pereira leads the PGA Championship by three, at nine-under par, and everyone inside the top five is gunning for not just their first major championship win, but their first PGA Tour win as well.

“It’s by far the biggest tournament I played, the biggest round of golf and tomorrow is going to be even bigger,” Pereira said after his round. “Just try to keep it simple, try to do the same things that I’ve been doing, try to not even look at the people that’s around me.”

Matthew Fitzpatrick will join Pereira in the final group. The 27-year-old Englishman has the most experience of the players near the top of the leaderboard with seven wins on the European Tour (now the DP World Tour).

“I feel like whenever I’ve had a chance in Europe, I’ve played very well,” Fitzpatrick said. “Just looking forward to it more than anything. It’s a chance to win. I’ll happily go tee off now if we can.”

Pereira and Fitzpatrick are the only players in the field to shoot under par in each of the first three rounds.

Tiger Woods struggled both physically and on the scorecard on Saturday, walking gingerly and unable to push off his injured right leg, shooting a nine-over 79.

“Tiger Woods has informed us that he is withdrawing from the 2022 PGA Championship,” PGA of America President Jim Richerson said in a statement. “We admire Tiger’s valiant effort to compete here at Southern Hills and wish him the best as he continues to recover from his injuries.”

The penultimate group on Sunday will pair 36-hole leader Will Zalatoris (-6) and Cameron Young (-5).

“I’ve got nothing to lose, you know, Mito played an incredible round today,” Zalatoris said of his Saturday playing partner. “I think you’ve got to go out and get it. Everybody’s got to go out and earn it. Just like I said, keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully it adds up to the lowest score.”

Anyone trying to pick a winner at the PGA Championship should wait, both figuratively and literally, to see which way the wind blows on Sunday. The third round saw wild swings on the leaderboard as players tried to deal with the seemingly ever-changing conditions. After a week of temperatures well into the 30s, it was 12C when the third round in Tulsa began, and never got much warmer. But it was again the wind that confounded the world’s best players. The wind has been difficult all week long, but along with a temperature change, Saturday brought a altogether different breeze.

“I hit 8-iron into No. 6 yesterday, for example, and today I’m trying to hit a 3-iron,” said Seamus Power, who shot a three-under 67. “And all practice rounds, they were all that south, southeasterly breeze, and then all of a sudden it’s coming from the north, and it completely changes. And you’re moving your targets and you’re moving your eyeline, and I think that’s some of the difficulties today.”

Power begins Sunday in sixth place at three-under, one shot behind Abraham Ancer who matched Power’s 67 on Saturday. The two will play together on Sunday.

Behind them, a group of major champions lurk at two-under par. Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, and Stewart Cink will be looking to pounce if Pereira and friends stumble out of the gate. On Saturday, hole Nos. 2, 3, 6, and 7 were the four toughest holes on the course, and with the wind expected to remain from the north, expect another leaderboard reshuffle early in the final round.

There is a group of seven players at one-under par including major champions Webb Simpson and Gary Woodland. Australia’s Lucas Herbert is part of the group and he says the beer prices at Southern Hills this week might help him prepare for Sunday.

“Stay away from those beers tonight,” Herbert said. “If they are going to be $18, I don’t think I’ll go near them anyway. But do everything I can and give myself as much energy as possible for tomorrow.”

Canada’s Adam Hadwin shot a five-over 75 and is tied for 70th at nine-over par. Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes missed the cut.

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