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PGA Championship 2022: Will Zalatoris, Other Contenders Will Have to Beat Mother Nature

PGA Championship 2022: Will Zalatoris, Other Contenders Will Have to Beat Mother Nature article feature image
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Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Will Zalatoris

  • The wind played a key factor over the first two days of the 2022 PGA Championship.
  • Will Zalatoris leads after two days, having benefited from a fortunate draw.
  • Jason Sobel reports from Southern Hills Country Club below.

TULSA, Okla. — If there’s been an MVP in the current golf campaign, it’s undoubtedly been Scottie Scheffler, who’s won his first four PGA TOUR titles, including, of course, last month’s Masters Tournament.

With a missed cut at this week’s PGA Championship, though, Scheffler might be feeling the heat from another entity that is quickly gaining ground on him.

That’s right: Mother Nature is coming on strong.

The year’s three biggest tournaments so far have been seized by wildly changing weather patterns — first at The Players Championship, which lasted five days, then at the Masters and now at the PGA Championship as a few different seasons are sweeping through Southern Hills Country Club.

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This tournament started Thursday with warm temperatures and a light breeze on a seemingly soft, almost forgiving course. Within hours, however, that breeze turned into a stiff wind. The wind freshened on Friday morning and provided 25-mph gusts before laying down in the afternoon, much to the dismay of those on the opposite side of the draw.

However, that’s not all. Saturday’s third round is expected to commence with much cooler temperatures and perhaps softer conditions, leading to lower scores. Overnight rain is in the forecast, while more cool, breezy conditions are expected on Sunday.

Warm and cool. Wet and dry. Windy and calm.

If you were dialing up conditions on the Xbox, this is what you’d want to see.

We unconditionally want the world’s best players to be tested in every aspect of their games during the most important tournaments and Mother Nature’s recent ability to throw a handful of varied weather patterns at ‘em certainly makes that test more difficult.

Of course, this can also lead to unequal circumstances.

Justin Thomas posted perhaps the round of the day on Friday, playing in heavy winds to the tune of a 3-under 67 that left him in sole possession of the midday lead.

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“I played really, really well today,” he said afterward. “The conditions were obviously very difficult. I stayed very patient, tried to get in my own little world and get in a zone and just tried to execute each shot the best I could. I felt we did a great job of that and I’m glad to have a good round to show for it.”

As mentioned earlier, those winds died down for the afternoon wave, as Thomas nearly got passed by Bubba Watson, who posted a record-tying 7-under 63 on this golf course. He then did get passed by Mito Pereira and 36-hole leader Will Zalatoris.

The season-long leader in Strokes Gained: Approach shots for the PGA TOUR, Zalatoris showed off an uncommonly hot flatstick during the late part of the day and shot a 65 to reach 9-under and claim a spot atop the leaderboard.

That’s big news ‘round these parts as each of the seven previous major champions at Southern Hills held at least a share of the lead entering the weekend.

“I told my caddie, ‘Let’s just enjoy this,’” Zalatoris said after a bogey-free performance. “My first Masters [last year], obviously I finished runner-up and our whole mission that week was just to enjoy the experience, so kind of keep that same attitude going into this weekend.”

Mother Nature will undoubtedly have something to say about these final two rounds as varied weather is expected to bring different challenges to this weekend’s contenders.

It’s everything we want to see at a major championship. Every aspect of a player’s game tested in just about every type of condition. Whether it’s Zalatoris, Pereira, Thomas, Watson or one of the many other elite-level players just a notch below them on the leaderboard, the one who best deals with Mother Nature is very likely going to be the one holding the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday evening.

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