Only 18 holes remain at the 2022 PGA Championship with Mito Pereira sitting in the lead. What big questions linger ahead of Sunday’s final round?
Coming into Saturday and the weekend at the 2022 PGA Championship, golf fans knew that the weather was about to flip with the winds dying down slightly but the temperatures dropping dramatically. That would create a new test — but the expectation was for the heavy hitters such as Will Zalatoris, Justin Thomas and even Rory McIlroy to make a statement after 36 holes.
Instead, it was the young Chilean, Mito Pereira, a player still searching for his first PGA Tour win, who took control of the second major championship of the year.
With an impressive 69 on a day when almost no one shot under par, Pereira jumped out to 9-under for the tournament, giving him a three-stroke lead heading into Sunday and looking primed to make his first victory outside of the Korn Ferry Tour a momentous one.
Given the conditions and how tough Southern Hills has played, though, nothing is certain over the final 18 holes. There is still a lot of drama left to play out on Sunday for the final round and, having that in mind, these five questions will be at the forefront for the last day of the 2022 PGA Championship before a champion is crowned.
PGA Championship 2022: Burning questions for the final round
5. Can Mito Pereira hang on for his first win and first major?
Pereira is one of only two players in the field who has been under par in every round of the tournament to this point — and his 69 on Saturday might be even more impressive than the 64 he shot on Friday given the elements.
Yet, we’ve seen players who have looked cold-blooded at points in this tournament fall back to Earth time and again. It happened to Rory, to JT, to Zalatoris, and to many others. Now with the pressure of winning his first tournament since joining the PGA Tour being at a major championship, how Pereira handles that at a course that has shown its teeth often this week will be fascinating to watch over the final 18 holes.
4. Did Will Zalatoris get his bad round out of the way?
After a 66-65 start to the PGA Championship, it appeared that Zalatoris was in line to run away for his own first victory since joining the PGA Tour. As it often has been, though, the putter proved to be a nemesis for the youngster on Saturday. After gaining 6.18 strokes on the field on the greens over the first two rounds when he jumped out to the lead, Zalatoris gave back 1.52 strokes with the putter.
The question, however, is if this was the outlier round. If so, could we see Willy Z charge up the leaderboard from three back of Pereira and take the first-victory glory from his fellow competitor? You can’t rule it out.
3. Is everyone overlooking Matt Fitzpatrick?
The other guy tied with Zalatoris in second at 6-under? Matt Fitzpatrick. That might surprise you considering that he was not part of the conversation coming into the weekend, despite the fact that he was lurking at 3-under. However, with a 3-under 67 on Saturday, he’s now heavily in the mix and is yet another player searching for his first win stateside.
What stands out for Fitzpatrick, though, is that his putting has buoyed his performance. He’s gained 5.71 strokes with the flat stick this week, one of the best marks in the field. Can he keep that up to keep surging up the leaderboard and, perhaps, taste victory? Or will he come back to Earth and fall short as a result.
2. Will Cameron Young be the one to break through for his first win?
Just behind Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris sits Cameron Young, a dark horse pick for many coming into the week and for good reason. His ability to play on different types of courses and contend throughout his rookie PGA Tour season have him on the radars of many people and he’s proving he’s the goods again, shooting back-to-back 67s on Friday and Saturday after a 1-over round to start his week.
Above all else, Young has just been steady with his scoring this week and has gained strokes across the board, most impactfully (as expected) with the driver. With the way this tournament has played out thus far, it’s hard to rule him out at four strokes off the lead with the manner he’s gotten to this point in.
1. Do Justin Thomas or even Rory McIlroy have any Sunday magic?
Saturday was a day to forget for both JT and Rory as they lumbered their way to twin 74s on the day. That leaves Thomas seven strokes behind Pereira and McIlroy a whopping nine strokes off the pace.
While that’s a chasm between the two stars and the leader, these are two of the best scorers on the planet. We saw McIlroy try to chase down Scottie Scheffler at August and Thomas has thrived on Sundays as well. If Pereira and the other host of players searching for a first win falter under the pressure while Thomas and McIlroy go low, that could legitimately put them in the mix.
The question says it all, though: Do they have the Sunday magic to make that happen in the final round? All eyes should be tuned in to see if they do.