Mito Pereira was never meant to be in the position he was in on the 72nd hole of the 104th PGA Championship. Not only is he a rookie yet to win on the PGA Tour, he also made his PGA Championship debut, finishing as a 175-1 longshot to win the tournament, Caesars Sportsbook announced Thursday.
But there he was on Sunday night at the 18th tee in Southern Hills, one shot clear and one hand on the Wanamaker Trophy.
What happened next was something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, let alone a brave 27-year-old misfit.
Pereira’s shot landed in the penalty area and, try as he might to save the hole, he ended up carding a double bogey, squandering his big championship aspirations – or at least putting them off for the foreseeable future.
“Obviously sad to be here and not in the playoffs, not making par, just winning straight. At 18, I didn’t even think about the water. I just wanted to put it in play and I think I did I aimed too far to the right. I just hit the water,” said Pereira, who went into the finals as the 54-hole leader by three shots.
“That’s not how I wanted to end this week. … Today I was really nervous. I tried to deal with it a little bit but it’s really difficult. I thought I was going to win at 18 but it is what it is. We’re going to be one have other
While Pereira’s collapse was reminiscent of Phil Mickelson on Winged Foot or Dustin Johnson on Whistling Straits, this one felt different.
That’s because it was different.
It was the two star golfers mentioned above should be there At the end. Mickelson was in possession of a PGA Championship and Masters at the time of his US Open heartbreak. Johnson was a top 30 player in the world who had just fought at Pebble Beach two months earlier, only to experience his own agony. They ended up in the manner of supernovas, stars that reached the end of their lives in those respective tournaments.
Pereira entered the official world golf rankings this week as the 100th player without a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour in 2022. (He’s since moved up to 49th after a T3 result at Southern Hills.)
Sure, there were moments when we saw his full potential. The 27-year-old was a Battlefield promotion from the Korn Ferry Tour last summer, which is no easy feat. He was also a participant in the seven-man playoff for the bronze medalist at the 2020 Olympics.
There’s no question that Pereira is a great ball forward… but a big winner? No, not in a million years. Not in Southern Hills, where Hall of Famers like Tiger Woods, Raymond Floyd and Hubert Green have been victorious in the past. Not in the deepest field of the year during a stretch run by the great champions that includes the top three players in the world: Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa and Jon Rahm.
Yet 98.6% of the week Pereira looked like one. He went into the finals with a solid three-shot lead and, despite some hairy moments on Sunday, it never felt like the tournament was out of reach for him.
As his peers’ chances faded under the pressure to play for a major championship, Pereira parried clutch paraller after clutch. It felt like his last such putt – on the difficult par-4 16 – would be enough to successfully repel an attacking Justin Thomas and the harassing Will Zatoris.
Even if you weren’t actively cheering for Pereira through the first 70 holes of the tournament, you couldn’t help but indulge in his underdog story, told at length on the CBS show through the eyes of fellow Chilean and close friend Joaquin Niemann.
Pereira’s birdie bid on the moveable par-4 17th was one turn too short to add some much-needed play afterwards. That would have put him two shots ahead of clubhouse leader Thomas (and soon to be clubhouse co-leader Zulatoris). Instead, he opted for par… and moments later, lightning struck.
“I thought I was nervous on day one. Then I thought I would be nervous for the second day. Then I thought I was nervous on day three. But the fourth day was terrible,” said Pereira. “I mean, this morning was tough. I don’t know, I mean I just played through it and actually had a one shot lead to 18 and that was pretty good and sad to hit it in the water. I mean, I wish I could do it again.”
I wish I could do it again.
A quote from Padraig Harrington at the 2021 PGA Championship has stuck in my mind all week as I try to put Rory McIlroy’s struggles at major championships into context. But coming back to it after Sunday’s events, it seems to fit Pereira – albeit in a different way.
“As you gain experience, you lose innocence. I suppose when you draw a graphic there’s a crossroads of balance where you have some experience and a certain level of innocence and enthusiasm,” said the Irishman. “As you get a little bit older and get all that experience, maybe on paper people think you get better with experience.
“But like I said, you saw a few things in your game that you probably never wanted to see, so you’ve lost a bit, I suppose, of innocence.”
Perhaps this major championship meltdown hurts more than Mickelson and Johnson’s collapses because of this factor: Pereira’s innocence.
He was never should be in this position. He was never should experience the emotions he felt on Saturday night as the 54-hole leader, on Sunday morning as a favorite to win the PGA championship, or on Sunday night when he left the 72nd green after an eventual loss.
That’s part of the growth of golfers and competitors.
While some learn from their mistakes at swing season tournaments or DP World Tour events, Pereira has no choice but to absorb the mistake he made on one of golf’s greatest stages.
If Pereira ever finds himself in the same position where a spin or erratic swing will cost him a major championship, best believe he won’t do it again.
https://www.cbssports.com/golf/news/2022-pga-championship-why-mito-pereiras-major-heartbreak-stings-more-than-supernovas-of-the-past/ 2022 PGA Championship: Why Mito Pereira’s Big Heartbreak Hurts More Than Supernovas of the Past