CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Chris Stroud is known by friends as Mr. Positivity, but even he couldn’t have imagined he’d be playing in the PGA Championship this week, let alone have a chance of win it.
Stroud has become the surprise story of the tournament, teeing off in the final paring on Sunday alongside tournament leader Kevin Kisner.
The fact that he’s even here is an amazing story.
An 11-year PGA Tour veteran, the 35-year-old Stroud had played in 288 PGA Tour events but had never won until capturing the Barracuda Championship in incredible fashion last Sunday. He made three birdies and an eagle to forge his way into a three-way playoff at Montreaux Golf and Country Club and then won with a two-putt birdie on the second extra hole.
The win gave Stroud an automatic entry into the PGA Championship and a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
“To finally get a win was really magical,” Stroud said. “I’m still on cloud nine.”
Stroud, who is tied for second place at 6 under, one shot behind Kisner, said he won’t change his approach on Sunday.
He borrowed a line from Kevin Costner’s character in Bull Durham, saying “don’t mess with a streak.”
“I have the same everything I had last week,” Stroud said. “I have the same swing thoughts as last week. I have the same routine warming up. I’m not going to change anything.”
Despite his positive demeanor, Stroud admits he did get frustrated at times playing golf in the shadows of others like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.
During his first three or four years on tour he would get mad at himself when he didn’t play well. But eventually he started to level out emotionally. Finally, about six months he said he came to terms with the notion that his career goals might never come to fruition.
“I said, ‘Hey, I don’t know if I’m ever going to win. I don’t know if I can be No. 1 in the world. I don’t know if I’m good enough. I don’t know, anything,” Stroud said. “All I’m going to do is I’m going to do this every day. I’m going to go out there and play. I love this game. I’m going to respect it. I’m going to be grateful to be out here. I wake up every day and say, ‘I’m grateful to have a chance to play. I’m healthy. And just let it fall into place.’”
For Stroud, playing in final pairing of a major tournament is a dream come true.
He knows he’s going to be extremely nervous, but figures so will everyone else, especially with so many surprising names at the top of the leaderboard.
With 54 holes in the books, 14 of the top 15 names on the leaderboard for the 99th PGA Championship are in search of winning their first major championship. The lone exception is Louis Oosthuizen, who won the 2010 Open at St. Andrews.
“I’ve been waiting on this a long time,” Stroud said. “I didn’t think it was going to take me this long, but I’m glad I’m here.”
Day implodes late
Jason Day reeled off three straight birdies and took a remarkable gamble that didn’t pay off.
This Day was moving at the PGA Championship, all right — both up and down.
Day’s quadruple bogey on the par-4 18th finished off a 6-over 77 on Saturday that left him at even par through three rounds of the tournament, in a tie for 16th place and seven strokes behind leader Kevin Kisner.
Day declined to speak to reporters as he left the clubhouse. His final hole might have been tough to explain.
Day was just four strokes back when his tee shot on the 494-yard hole veered behind a tree in some pine straw on the right side of the fairway. He tried a high-risk shot to hook it around the tree , and it landed in a bush, winding up unplayable.
After taking a drop near some portable toilets, he hit a flop shot over some trees into the fairway rough. His shot from that thick grass stopped 65 feet shy of the stick, and he three-putted.