Caddie Travis Perkins talks about Sam Burns’ playoff win at the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge.
“Conversations with Champions, presented by Sentry” is a weekly series from Golfweek in collaboration with The Caddie Network, where we take you behind the scenes for a chat with the winning caddie from the most recent PGA Tour event. This week: Travis Perkins, caddie for Sam Burns at 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge.
According to Burns’ caddie Travis Perkins, getting the flat stick out of the bag is always key for this duo.
“If I can get the putter in his hands, anything is possible,” Perkins told John Rathouz from The Caddie Network. The Schwab win was the third of the season for Burns and fourth in his PGA Tour career.
“I’m not saying it becomes easier but you learn how to deal with the emotions and what you’re going through inside and how your body is going to react,” Perkins said. “So I think all these wins that Sam has done, they’ve all been different. This one, coming from behind the way he did … you just never know what’s going to happen. And when you get into a playoff — it’s hard to win out there — you just try to do everything you can to keep yourself in it and try not to make mistakes.”
Back to that putt that Burns buried from way downtown.
“We were only a couple of paces away in regulation from where that ball ended up in the playoff so he kinda had an idea of what it was doing,” Perkins said. “After he made it, he came over to me and he goes ‘I didn’t think that was going to get to the hole’ but the greens had picked up some speed because they dried out so much. He thought he left it short.”
Several Valhalla members form investment group to buy Valhalla, past site of majors and a Ryder Cup as well as the 2024 PGA.
Valhalla Golf Club has been sold by the PGA of America to a group of Louisville investors who want to “continue to bring major championships” to Kentucky, according to new co-owner Jimmy Kirchdorfer.
“Valhalla, for a 36-year-old club, has amazing history,” said Kirchdorfer, an executive with ISCO Industries. “It’s already hosted a Ryder Cup and three major championships. We just saw it as important that this is returned to local ownership. That way, we can control. We know people are going to operate in the best interest of the community.”
Kirchdorfer is a Valhalla board member who joined the club in 2004 and has previously worked with the PGA on events that have been held at the course. Three other well-known local executives joined him in the purchase: former Yum! Brands CEO David Novak, Musselman Hotels President Chester Musselman and Junior Bridgeman, a former University of Louisville basketball player who built an entrepreneurial empire following a 12-year run in the NBA.
The PGA, which bought the course from founder Dwight Gahm in 2000, confirmed the sale in a Wednesday press release, and Valhalla members were informed in an email from Keith Reese, the club’s general manager. The sale is effective immediately, according to Kirchdorfer, who did not disclose the cost of the course.
“Valhalla Golf Club has proven itself to be a wonderful test of championship golf, one that is as fair as it is challenging for the top golfers in the world,” PGA of America President Jim Richerson wrote in the release. “We look forward to partnering with the new ownership group on a highly anticipated 2024 PGA Championship and working with the new owners to continue to have it as one of our championship sites.”
Valhalla, which stands on nearly 500 acres in eastern Jefferson County, is “an icon in the community,” Kirchdorfer said. It had been the only private club owned and operated by the PGA, and it was ranked by Golfweek’s Best as the No. 1 private course in the state. It ties for No. 74 on Golfweek’s Best 2022 ranking of Modern Courses in the U.S.
The course was designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus ahead of its opening in 1986 and has hosted three PGA Championship tournaments, including a famed victory by Tiger Woods in 2000. It was home to the Ryder Cup in 2008, bringing stars of the sport from around the world to Louisville, and is set to host the PGA Championship again in 2024.
Kirchdorfer, a longtime golf advocate, said he got to work forming a group to bid on Valhalla after members were informed in November that the PGA had been approached by a potential buyer and would entertain other offers. All four buyers are longtime members of the club.
Valhalla’s status brings value to the community, he said, which the ownership group took into consideration. And while some club members expressed concerns over potential redevelopment when it hit the market last year, Kirchdorfer said the 18-hole course isn’t going anywhere.
Instead, the ownership group will work to highlight “Kentucky hospitality,” he said, and “build upon the great tradition and culture that’s already there.” So, concerned club members and others in the Louisville golf community have got that going for them, which is nice.
“Valhalla’s the crown jewel of Kentucky golf, and we wanted it locally owned like it was with the Gahm family,” Kirchdorfer said. “The Gahm family had an amazing vision and took a big risk when they took a farm and hired Jack Nicklaus to build a golf course with the hopes of bringing major championship golf to this community – and they succeeded, which a lot of people don’t.
“We just wanted to make sure that the next owners had the same mission of doing what’s best for Valhalla and the community of Louisville.”
The new owners have plenty of work to do in the next two years ahead of the 2024 PGA Championship, set for May 16-19 that year. The group plans to invest in the property to ensure it’s a “reflection of our community,” Kirchdorfer said.
An impressive turn at that 2024 tournament can send a message to the PGA – which works to promote the game with more than 28,000 members – that Louisville is a capable host for the sport’s biggest moments, according to Kirchdorfer, who previously served as vice chair of a Louisville PGA Championship.
“When we show how much this community will support the ’24 championship, we’re confident they’ll continue to bring more championships,” he said.
It’s become all too common at PGA Tour events over the last few seasons. A star of the game hits it into the people, the fans flock to the ball like seagulls chasing down your chips at the beach, then when the player actually hits the shot, zero eyeballs see it. They all watch it through their phones, taking a video they’ll never watch again.
Just another reason why the Masters is king.
Well, a fan went old-school at last week’s PGA Championship when Tiger Woods hit a wayward drive and had to hit a heroic punch shot from the trees. Every other fan in this incredible photo watched through the lens of their smartphone while one man stood there, beer in hand, taking in the GOAT at work.
Fans at home weren’t the only ones to notice this guy — so did Michelob Ultra, the very beer the man was holding.
A few days after the photo was taken, Mark, the fan, and Michelob Ultra agreed on a deal that resulted in a 15-second advertisement centered around the photo, then a merchandise line that included a shirt and hat with Mark on it.
Pretty intense for a beer commercial, but pretty damn cool.
We found #TheMichelobGuy. As you can imagine, Mark was hard to reach. He proved it’s only worth it if you enjoy it, so we immortalized him with some merch. Grab a tee and rock it at the next golf event for a chance to win some free ULTRA. pic.twitter.com/bfZRo0aQ1w
TULSA, Okla. – Justin Thomas rested his left hand against a handle of the Wanamaker Trophy during his winner’s press conference for the 104th PGA Championship with the insouciance of a man who had just been reunited with an old friend.
He had reacquired possession of the gigantic silver trophy for the first time since 2017, back when it was handed out in August. But his playoff victory over Will Zalatoris on Sunday was not without its shaky moments, none more so than when he shanked his 5-iron tee shot at the par-3 sixth hole.
“I just cold shanked it,” Thomas conceded afterward. “I don’t really know how else to say it. It was the best bogey I’ve ever made in my life, that’s for sure.”
Caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay noted that Thomas caught “a great break” that the ball didn’t go into a penalty area, namely the creek that meanders through the hole.
“He had a great lie and 118 yards but he went under it and hit a tree very hard and that could’ve gone anywhere and it went back into the bunker. Then he hit one of his three or four best shots of the day, a cutty pitching wedge from out of the bunker from about 100 yards to 20 feet and then he makes it.”
It turned out to be the final bogey Thomas would make that day. How did he right the ship? Bones explained: “You want something out there almost to take your mind off it and to have some fun,” he explained. “He hits this great drive on the seventh hole and I get the yardage and we’ve got to hit 5-iron again.”
For those scoring at home, that would be the club that Thomas dropped in disgust on impact and had made him look like a Sunday Joe and not a soon-to-be two-time major champion.
“So, very next hole, water right of the green, green sloping left to right, he’s got to step up and hit a shot with the club he shanked 20 minutes ago,” Bones continued, “and he hit arguably his best shot of the day. We were remarking that it was his best full swing of the week and he hit it to 10 feet.”
ShotLink had it at 9 feet, 4 inches. And from there through the playoff, Thomas was money.
“It was a hang-in-there day,” Bones added. “It seemed like the type of golf course that you could come from way back.”
They did just that, erasing a seven-stroke deficit as Mito Pereira and others faltered down the stretch. When it was all said and done and the trophy belonged to Thomas again, Thomas and Mackay joked about the shank, just as JT emptied his pockets and strapped on his Rolex watch before the official trophy ceremony.
“It was a shanky-barkie-sandy,” Bones cracked. “At least that’s what we’d call it at the club.”
As Thomas said in his CBS-TV interview, “I’ve never won a tournament shanking a ball on Sunday, so that was a first, and man, I would really like it to be a last.”
TULSA, Okla. – Jim “Bones” Mackay received some help unscrewing the 18th-hole flag from the stick not long after his boss, Justin Thomas, had tapped in to beat Will Zalatoris in a playoff to win the 104th PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
It was for a moment such as this that Bones, 56, dropped the mic for NBC Sports and Golf Channel and returned to caddying for the one player he’d told his wife if he ever got the chance to work for, they’d be having a conversation.
When Thomas approached Bones shortly after the 2021 Ryder Cup and asked him to become his full-time caddie, it was an easy decision for Bones. Thomas wanted him on the bag for moments such as Saturday evening, when a dejected Thomas sensed that his 4-over 74 in the third round had cost him the tournament. Despite the fact that Thomas would be entering the final round trailing by seven strokes, Bones delivered the tough love that was necessary.
“I’m fully confident in saying that I wouldn’t be standing here if he didn’t give me that, wasn’t necessarily a speech, but a talk, if you will,” Thomas said. “I just needed to let some steam out. I didn’t need to bring my frustration and anger home with me. I didn’t need to leave the golf course in a negative frame of mind. I just went down, ‘I played pretty well yesterday for shooting 4-over, and I felt like I’d played terrible.’ And he was just like, ‘Dude, you’ve got to be stop being so hard on yourself. You’re in contention every single week we’re playing.’ ”
Bones continued: “It’s a major championship. You don’t have to be perfect. Just don’t be hard on yourself. Just kind of let stuff happen, and everything is trending in the right direction. So just keep staying positive so that good stuff can happen.”
“I left here in an awesome frame of mind,” Thomas said.
On Sunday, after taking a few last putts on the practice green, Thomas handed his putter back to Bones. No words were exchanged, but Thomas calmly took the fresh glove Bones had rested over an alignment stick and started walking towards the golf carts that were shuttling players and caddies to the first tee. Kids along a railing called out to him, but his mind was elsewhere. Instead, he slapped the glove against his right thigh. Hard. He did it again, and then a third time. He was in the frame mind to pounce if any of the inexperienced leaders faltered.
It didn’t look that way early when Thomas made two bogeys in his first six holes, including a shank off the tee at the par-3 sixth hole that Bones later joked was “a shanky, barkie, sandy.” Thomas found his stride and shot 67, the only player in the last seven groups Sunday to break par, and when he ended up in a three-hole playoff, he went for the kill.
“Bones did an unbelievable job of keeping me in the moment,” Thomas said.
Winning majors is old hat for Bones, who had won five previously during his 25 years on the bag for Phil Mickelson. But he didn’t have the caddie trophy to show for it.
As detailed in the new book, “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and unauthorized) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar,” Mickelson had a tradition where he gave his winning flag from 18 to his grandfather, a former Pebble Beach caddie, who hung them on his kitchen wall. Mickelson’s first major flag from the 2004 Masters went there, four months after his death.
“Mackay understood and respected that gesture, but 19 more Tour victories would follow, including four majors and he never got to keep a single flag,” Shipnuck wrote.
“That’s a giant f— you to a caddie,” Shipnuck quotes someone very close to Mackay. “When Phil wins the Masters, he gets the green jacket, the trophy, the big check, all the glory. He had to take the flags, too?… For Phil not to follow the tradition was hugely disrespectful.”
During the week of the WM Phoenix Open, Bones hosted a dinner party for players and caddies at his home and without fail he would be asked, “Where are the flags?”
Shortly after their break-up in the summer of 2017, Mickelson overnighted to Bones the major flags they had won together.
“But Phil autographed them in comically large letters, which Mackay felt disfigured the keepsakes,” Shipnuck reported and noted that Bones never displayed them in his home.
Bones didn’t participate in Shipnuck’s book, and when asked to confirm these details from Shipnuck’s book this week, he declined. But he also didn’t refute them.
It is rich with irony that Bones was on the bag for the winner at the PGA where Mickelson was supposed to be the defending champion and elected not to play. On Sunday, Bones tucked the 18th flag into the left pocket of his shorts. When asked if he knew where he would display it, he smiled wide.
“I’ve got a spot in mind,” he said, saying he’d have to get approval from his wife, “but somewhere that my friends can come around and see it.”
Careers have chapters, and Rory McIlroy wouldn’t have to look far at Southern Hills for proof of that.
TULSA, Olka. — It’s a glib Hallmark sentiment to note that 155 men departed the 104th PGA Championship disappointed and only one didn’t. A handful of the 20 club professionals competing surely had no real expectation of making the cut and were happy to make folks proud at the club back home. Same for a few ex-champions content to enjoy a 36-hole stroll down memory lane. Disappointment is a burden particular to those with expectations, and within that there are tiers.
Dispirited. Dejected. Despondent. Distressed. Whatever box a player checks isn’t necessarily related to his departure time. A man who packs up Friday evening might be deflated, but he’s hardly feeling worse than one who gets into contention and comes up painfully short.
Some of the best players in the world left their G5 contrails over Tulsa a couple days ago. Like world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, doomed by a second-round 75. And Dustin Johnson, after a pair of 73s. Patrick Cantlay missed the cut by more than a touchdown. Sergio Garcia bade farewell to the PGA Tour—if we are to believe his recent petulant declaration—with his 12th major MC since winning the Masters.
Others made the cut but didn’t make any headway, including Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Brooks Koepka. Tiger Woods falls into a grey area, discouraged by his withdrawal but perhaps encouraged that he managed another major start in his recovery. But some will leave sorely disappointed. Pissed even.
Rory McIlroy grabbed the first round lead then stalled for three days, his run of four consecutive birdies early Sunday briefly teasing a last gasp charge that sputtered out into an 8th place finish. This was the 28th major he has contested since that last victory at Valhalla in 2014. He’s finished inside the top 10 in 15 of them, but not always—not often, even—in actual contention.
Believers will see McIlroy’s performance at Southern Hills as testament to his determination and ability to put himself in the mix. Doubters will present it as more evidence of softness and inability to get over the line. Such is the era in which he lives and the burden he lives with. The same social media commandos would have slated Jack Nicklaus for his 19 runner-up finishes in majors, a statistic that is really proof of just how difficult they are to win. For now, McIlroy will have to comfort himself with the knowledge that the millstone of expectation is never draped on an also-ran.
This was assuredly an opportunity that slipped by for McIlroy. The playoff he missed by three shots was between two men who finished Sunday evening exactly where he had finished Thursday morning: 5-under par. He knows great careers are judged on these tournaments, on a player’s ability to work his way into a position to go for the kill. He also knows his dozen worldwide victories since the ’14 PGA Championship don’t much mitigate his lack of success in majors. Even in his own mind, it might actually accentuate it.
But careers have chapters, and McIlroy wouldn’t have to look far at Southern Hills for proof of that.
Forty years ago, Raymond Floyd went wire-to-wire here to win his third major at the PGA Championship. Six years had passed since his second major, and the second came seven years after the first. Floyd joined the PGA Tour in 1963 and his first five starts were T57-MC-MC-MC-Win. He went on to win the ’69 PGA Championship. He was 26 years old, but also a hard-partying playboy. That changed one March morning in 1974.
Floyd was on his way to missing the cut at the Greater Jacksonville Open when a pal approached and urged him to withdraw so they could be at the track that afternoon. He did, and returned to the hotel for his belongings. “I came here for four days, and I’m staying for four days,” his wife, Maria, told him.
They stayed another two days, during which time Maria told her husband that if he wasn’t committed to golf then he was still young enough to find another career. It was, Floyd told me years later, a slap upside the head. The second chapter in Floyd’s career—the period in which he became Raymond Floyd—was authored in that hotel room.
Of his 22 PGA Tour wins, 17 came after that conversation. He won the Masters by eight in 1976, the PGA Championship by three in’82, and a chaotic shootout at Shinnecock Hills in ’86 to become, at the time, the oldest U.S. Open champion. He damned near added another two Green Jackets as he neared 50, finishing second in ’90 and ’92.
McIlroy is 33, and is neither partier nor a playboy. He is not frittering away his talent. If his clock is ticking, it is slow and faint. The entire second half of his career lies ahead. He isn’t slumping—he’s won twice in the last year. Sure, each missed opportunity in the majors must hurt, but only he knows if each one weakens his resolve. The frequency and good humor with which he puts himself in a position to be disappointed suggests that his determination is undimmed. All he needs is the results, and he has ample time to render this barren run a distant memory.
This is a sport where even the best lose much more than they win. It’s the manner of the losing that often hurts most. Leaving Tulsa without a trophy isn’t necessarily painful for McIlroy, but he will rue his failure to build on the early opportunity and give himself a chance on the weekend. When he’s done licking that wound, he’ll do what 100-odd other guys who competed here will do: dust himself off and get ready to risk having his heart broken all over again in 25 days at the U.S. Open. It’s what they do, all in the hope of that one day when the heartbreak doesn’t happen.
It was the first playoff at the PGA Championship in 11 years.
TULSA, Okla. – Justin Thomas never gave in.
Not when he had to battle a cold and allergies before the first round began. Not when he got the worst of the draw the first two days. Not when his putter let him down in the third round. And not when he faced a seven-shot deficit entering Sunday’s final 18 holes at Southern Hills Country Club.
Make that the final 21 holes.
With help from Mito Pereira’s heartbreaking debacle on the 72nd hole, Thomas won the PGA Championship and his second Wanamaker Trophy in a three-hole aggregate playoff against Will Zalatoris, who was seeking his first PGA Tour title.
The 2017 PGA champion came storming home with four birdies in his last 10 holes in regulation to sign for a 3-under-par 67 to reach 5 under, then birdied the first two extra holes at the par-5 13th and par-4 17th and added a tap-in par on the par-4 final hole to defeat Zalatoris by one shot.
Thomas matched the largest comeback in PGA history; John Mahaffey was seven shots back entering the final round before winning the 1978 PGA in a playoff against Tom Watson.
Thomas joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson as the only players since World War II to win at least 15 PGA Tour titles and two majors before turning 30.
The 104th edition of the PGA also will be remembered for the brutal ending to Pereira’s Cinderella story. Playing in just his second major and first PGA, Pereira took a 3-shot lead into the final round, led by two with four to play and led by one shot going to the final hole.
Trying to become the first from Chili to win a major and the first PGA Tour rookie to win the PGA since Keegan Bradley in 2011, Pereira answered back whenever he faced adversity in the final round and never relinquished the lead.
Until the final 72nd hole.
After leaving his birdie putt on the lip on the 17th, Pereira drilled his tee shot on 18 into a creek on the right side of the fairway. After a penalty drop, he left his uphill third shot left of the green and needed three more shots to make a double-bogey 6 and miss the playoff by one shot.
In 15 minutes, he lost his grip on the Wanamaker, his place in history and his chance to put his first PGA Tour title on his resume.
“Obviously sad to be here and not in the playoff,” Pereira said. “On 18, I wasn’t even thinking about the water. I just wanted to put it in play, and I guess I aimed too far right. I just hit in the water. It’s not how I wanted to end up this week, but really good result.
“Today I was really nervous. I tried to handle it a little bit but it’s really tough. I thought I was going to win on 18, but it is what it is. I thought I was nervous the first day. Then I thought I was nervous the second day. Then I thought I was nervous on the third day but the fourth day was terrible. I mean, this morning was tough. I just played it through, and actually had a one-shot lead on 18 and that was pretty good and sad to hit it in the water. I wish I could do it again.”
Zalatoris, the 36-hole leader, made key 8-footers for birdie on par on the 71st and 72nd holes to finish with a 71 and earn a spot in the playoff. He has now finished runner-up in two majors; he finished a stroke behind Hideki Matsuyama in the 2021 Masters.
Pereira finished with a 75 and at 4 under. Joining Pereira at 4 under was Cameron Young, who grabbed a share of the lead earlier in the round but a double-bogey 6 on the 70th hole did him in as he finished with a 71.
In a tie for fifth at 3 under were Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Kirk, Fitzpatrick, playing in the final group, was unsteady throughout his 73, while Fleetwood came home with 67 and Kirk a 68.
The 15-time major champion and four-time Wanamaker Trophy winner Tiger Woods withdrew hours after his third round. Woods shot his worst score – a 9-over-par 79 – in his PGA Championship career. Woods clearly labored through the round and the second round, his right foot, ankle and leg that was severely damaged during a single-car rollover accident 15 months ago causing him pain.
It was his first WD from a major since turning pro in 1996.
TULSA, Okla. – Rory McIlroy will rue the missed opportunity that was the 104th PGA Championship.
He closed in 2-under 68 for a 72-hole total of 2-under 278. Another top-10 at a major and another major without a victory. The four-time major winner is now 0-for-his-last-28.
This one stung. So much so that McIlroy left Southern Hills without saying a word to the media. He declined all requests, packing his bags and departing in his Cadillac courtesy vehicle.
McIlroy stewed after the round on Saturday, too, blowing off the media. What could he say other than that he likely had cost himself a shot at the title. McIlroy raced into the lead on Thursday with a 65. His strut was back. This was going to be the week he got one for the thumb and claimed his fifth major title. He only hit six fairways on Friday and shot 1-over, failing to take full advantage of playing in the better weather wave, but was lurking at 4 under.
On Saturday, McIlroy made a double bogey and a triple bogey on the par 3s and lost nearly 4 strokes to the field on the greens. He shot 74 – the eighth time in his last nine major starts that’s he posted a round of 73 or worse – and entered the final round nine strokes behind 54-hole leader Mito Pereira.
It would take a heroic effort to overcome his deficit. But just like at the Masters in April where he shot a final-round 64 to finish second to Scottie Scheffler, McIlroy came out of the gates hot on Sunday with nothing to lose. He reeled off four birdies in a row starting at No. 2. He was 4 under and it seemed possible that he could post a low score and back door his way into his fifth major title as an inexperienced bunch ahead of him succumbed to the pressure.
McIlroy bogeyed the difficult par-3 sixth hole and the dream was over. He didn’t make another birdie all day. He hit 14 greens on Sunday, but too many times his birdie putts were from long range and he left them short when he could ill afford to. At the 12th, he belted a 361-yard drive and had 92 yards left to the green.
When he had to have birdie, McIlroy wedged to 15 feet. The fans applauded, but it was a meek effort and he failed to convert the putt. His wedge game is a work in progress and continues to hold him back in big moments. McIlroy made bogey at 17, meaning he shot 2-over on the final 13 holes once he was on the brink in contention. The only putt of substance he made on the way to the house was an 11-foot par putt at 18.
It added up to another missed opportunity and it left McIlroy speechless.
Cameron Young could make a big splash by making the PGA Championship his first PGA Tour title.
TULSA, Okla. – With an eagle at 17, Cameron Young shot 3-under 67 on Saturday and vaulted into fourth place at 5-under 205, four strokes behind 54-hole leader Mito Pereira, heading into the final round of the 104th PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
Young, 25, is having a breakout season as a rookie, notching three runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour, the most of any player. The new father of a son, Henry, could make an even bigger splash by making the PGA Championship his first Tour title.
Here are five things to know about Young, who was ranked No. 501 in the world at the end of 2020 and entered the week ranked No. 38 in the world.