Five things we learned from the US PGA Championship: Shane Lowry back as Major threat

Subdued week for Rory; surreal week for Scheffler; Schauffele’s clarity of mind; DeChambeau the YouTuber shines

Shane Lowry trending in right direction despite Sunday errors

“I tried… I failed… and I’ll try again,” wrote Shane Lowry on social media after his tied sixth finish at the US PGA Championship when he started Sunday just two strokes off the lead. It would be harsh, though, to call the week a failure for Lowry in any respect. The Offaly man will be disappointed he did not put up a better challenge in the final round, but as it happened he would have had to shoot back-to-back Major record-equalling 62s to beat Xander Schauffele’s 21-under-par total, a feat unheard of in the history of golf.

Lowry made a few costly mistakes on Sunday, particularly clearing the green on the seventh and only parring the par five, then three-putting the next hole to end his chances of winning. But if anything cost Lowry, it was his slow start on Thursday when he bogeyed three of the first five holes. A tied sixth finish was his best in a Major since the 2022 Masters, and only his third top 10 in Majors since he won the Open Championship in 2019.

His Saturday round brought back memories of his Saturday in Portrush that year when he was holing everything he looked at. Lowry’s putting has been below average for a few years, but if he can bottle up the magic of Saturday’s round for the rest of the year, he will fancy another crack at a Major, particularly the Open at Troon.

Rory McIlroy has muted week after divorce news

Rory McIlroy had a somewhat subdued time at Valhalla, considering he went into the tournament after two PGA Tour wins and was a previous Major winner on the course. The news of his divorce to wife Erica Stoll dominated the build-up and while he previously dealt with news of a break-up with Caroline Wozniacki with a victory at the BMW PGA Championship in 2014, he is a different man now and that level of distraction cannot have helped.

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McIlroy’s performance followed a typical recent trend of a good but not great tournament the week after winning on the PGA Tour heading into a major. It was in Friday’s pedestrian round of 71 that McIlroy gave Schauffele what proved to be an unassailable lead, but there were sloppy shots mixed in all week, including two wedges into the water on Sunday. McIlroy finished the week with eight bogeys and a double bogey on an easy set-up. By comparison, Schauffele made just three bogeys and one double. At least next year the US PGA Championship is at Quail Hollow, a course he has won at four times, but the length of his major drought is becoming very uncomfortable.

Xander Schauffele shows clear decision-making in key moment

For a player that has been criticised for not winning often enough, Schauffele showed poise and clear decision-making in winning his first Major on Sunday. No more so than his final approach shot at the 18th when tied for the lead with Bryson DeChambeau. With his feet in a bunker with a slightly compromised stance, he chose to advance the ball as far as possible with his second shot at the par five, rather than lay up to a favourable yardage as conventional wisdom would dictate.

The stats back up this decision, as highlighted by Luke Kerr-Dineen from Golf Digest. If he laid up between 100 and 125 yards, his average proximity this season is 24ft 8in to the hole, an outside birdie chance. Instead he advanced the ball to 36 yards from the green, where his proximity from that range is 9ft 6in. Schauffele pitched to six feet, holed the putt and won the tournament.

McIlroy, faced with a similar decision last year at the US Open, laid up on the par five 14th hole to 125 yards instead of going for the green with a three-wood, and he is far from the best wedge player on tour. McIlroy missed the green from that distance, bogeyed and lost by one stroke. On such decisions are Major titles won.

A surreal week for Scheffler catches up with him on Saturday

Schauffele is a well-deserving US PGA champion, and Bryson DeChambeau and Viktor Hovland excitingly pushed him all the way. But this championship will be remembered for the bizarre incident on Friday that led to Scottie Scheffler’s arrest just before his round. Just before that, there was also the sad death of John Mills, a vendor at the tournament, when he was hit by a bus.

Scheffler’s round of 66 on Friday having been in a cell just a few hours earlier was remarkable, but feeding off pure adrenaline, what had happened only really sunk in on Saturday after a night’s sleep. The world number one, also without regular caddie Ted Scott who was away at his child’s high school graduation, made several uncharacteristic errors as he posted his first over par round in 42 rounds. A return to form on Sunday with a round of 65 provoked thoughts of “what if”, although the American may have more pressing things to reflect on, with a potential court case coming up regarding the incident with the Louisville cop.

Bryson DeChambeau more than just a YouTube golfer

For those that moved to the LIV tour, the effect it has had on their golf games is a mixed bag. Jon Rahm looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, despite being several hundred million dollars richer. Bryson DeChambeau, meanwhile, has never looked more comfortable since his move, and it has given him the time and resources to build up a YouTube empire outside the tour.

The American has gained more than 600,000 followers on the platform as he posts challenges and collaborations with other professionals and celebrities, and produces genuinely good golf content. In 2021, he won the US Open as a hulk, drinking reportedly seven protein shakes a day in his bulking up peak in an attempt to overpower every golf course. These days he has found a balance, slimmed down to a better golfing physique and has started the year with a tied sixth at the Masters and a second place at the US PGA. There is no better content than winning a Major championship, and that could be around the corner for DeChambeau.

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