Club pro Michael Block chasing big payday, paired with McIlroy in final round at PGA
PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Michael Block — golf’s common man who is still holding his own against the world’s top players at the PGA Championship this week — plugged his ears and shook his head, making a point of not wanting to hear how big his payday might be if he finishes among the top 10.
“I don’t want to listen,” Block, the club professional out of Southern California, said Saturday. He revealed the largest paycheck he’s ever won from playing golf was $75,000, at the 2014 Club Professional National Championship at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
“I don’t listen about what I might make or could make or anything like that. I pretty much am putting my head down,” he added after staying in contention with his third consecutive even-par 70 that has him tied for eighth at Oak Hill.
The mere fact the 46-year-old was paired with Justin Rose for the tournament’s third round was so intimidating, Block refused to look at his playing partner’s face through the first few holes. On Sunday, he’ll be paired with Rory McIlroy, a four-time major champion.
“You serious?” Block said, when informed of the pairing. “Wow. That should be fun. We’ll have a good time,” he continued before adding, “Really?”
Try as he can, Block is unable to block out all the hype he’s generating around the golf course, on social media and television, where he appeared to be a natural conducting a live interview with broadcasters Jim Nantz and Scott Van Pelt in between shots.
“It’s just been awesome. Scott came up to me right before I was teeing off today and expressed how much he enjoyed the interview I had with him on 14 the other day,” Block said. “And I looked at my caddie and my friend, and I’m like, ‘This is ridiculous. I don’t even know what I’m doing.’”
Block is making everything look relatively easy on and off the course. On Saturday, he overcame a double bogey on the par-4 sixth and finished with three birdies and a bogey on the back nine.
Though he might seem out of his element, Block doesn’t lack for confidence while competing in his seventh major. This is the first in which he's made the cut.
“I love Rosey, but I can compete against these guys to be honest,” he added, referring to Rose. “I can hang. I can post a 3- or 4-under tomorrow, especially if I get the fairways rolling again.”
No matter the outcome on Sunday, Block has made it a point to enjoy every moment.
“Before you know it, you’re 60 years old and retired and look back at the videos and remember that was the best week of my life,” Block said. “So I’m going to sit back as much as I can with my friends and my family at the house we rented and watch the videos tonight and see all my new followers on Instagram. It’s been crazy.”
Phil Mickelson credited the benefits of age for achieving his latest milestone.
With a two-round score of 5-over 145 at the PGA Championship, the 52-year-old made the cut at a major for the 100th time. Lefty became just the fourth player to make 100 36-hole cuts at a major, joining Jack Nicklaus (131), Gary Player (108) and Tom Watson (101).
“It shows that I’ve had a lot of great experiences in the game of golf and that I’ve had a lot of great years and opportunities,” said Mickelson, who has won the PGA twice, the Masters three times and the British Open once.
“Playing in these tournaments is something I’m very appreciative of. I mean, it just shows how old I am, I guess, and how many years I’ve been playing,” Mickelson added. “But it’s been really fun to participate in so many great events and play well in them.”
PENALTY FOR WAITING
Lee Hodges was issued a one-stroke penalty for waiting too long to hit his next putt on No. 17 after leaving a 16-foot par attempt hanging on the lip of the cup. The ball hung on the precipice for about 30 seconds before, perhaps, a raindrop or two finally knocked it in.
In issuing the penalty, the PGA Championship rules committee cited Rule 13.3a, in which a player has 10 seconds to wait for their putt to drop, though after taking “a reasonable” amount of time to reach the hole. The committee ruled Hodges stood at his ball for more than 10 seconds before it fell.
As a result, Hodges closed with three straight bogeys in his round of 75.
Taylor Moore took out his frustration on his driver after sailing his tee shot into the rough on the par-14 16th.
Moore tossed his club in frustration walking off the tee box. Upon picking it up, he threw it down again but more violently, with the driver taking several bounces sideways.
On the bright side, Moore finished the hole by making a 2-footer for par. On the downside, he shot 78, with two double bogeys, and is 11 over for the tournament.
The winner of the PGA Championship will receive $3.15 million.
The PGA of America said Saturday its prize fund is $17.5 million. That’s up from $15 million last year. The winner gets $500,000 less than Masters champion Jon Rahm earned last month.
The purses in the majors have been steadily increasing, though not at the rate of the PGA Tour, which this year has 11 tournaments with $20 million or more in prize money. The individual winner at each LIV Golf event gets $4 million from a $20 million purse.
The other two majors have not announced their prize money.
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed to this report.
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