TULSA, Okla. ( Associated Press) — The wind finally eased Friday at the PGA Championship. Will Zalatoris no.
From the fairway or rough turf, Zalatoris kept hitting the ball at Southern Hills and took advantage of the milder conditions in the afternoon to finish with a 4-under 66. He thus has a one stroke advantage over Chilean Mito Pereira.
The weekend will feature Tiger Woods for the second consecutive major, an impressive achievement on its own.
Playing with obvious discomfort in his right leg after the car crash in which he managed to save his life 15 months ago, Woods was off the cut after a double bogey on the par-3 11th hole. He played the last seven holes with two birdies, two pars he saved with 15-foot pars to finish with 69 shots and one less impact to make the cut.
But he is 12 shots behind Zalatoris, the 25-year-old from Dallas who is built like a 1-iron and could probably hit the ball with his eyes closed.
Without a doubt Zalatoris and the rest of the golfers in his round were helped after the intense 30 mph wind stopped for the last two hours.
Bubba Watson had the opportunity to hit the first 62 in PGA Championship history. He missed inside 25 feet on the 18th hole and had to settle for a 63 for the 18th time in a major and the third time at Southern Hills. He joins Woods (2007) and Raymond Floyd (1982).
Pereira also went for 63, but missed from 7 feet on the ninth hole to end his round.
“I was lucky with the round. We played from the 11th without wind”, acknowledged Zalatoris. “When I got out of position, I made the most of it.”
Zalatoris is 9 under par and 131 strokes.
And all Justin Thomas could do was watch from his couch in the house he rented in Tulsa.
Thomas did the hard work in the morning, when the wind was raging and his arms were swinging. He missed just one shot on his way to a 67, which left a tricky goal for Rory McIlroy and the rest of the afternoon.
Now Thomas is three shots behind, Watson follows.
Of a score of golfers who are under par, only five were in the group that went out on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, the windiest times of the week.