Pereira falters on 18, says water wasn’t on mind

Pereira falters on 18, says water wasn't on mind thumbnail

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    Mark SchlabachESPN Senior Writer

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    • Author of seven books on college football
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TULSA, Okla. — As Mito Pereira stood in the interview area in a tent at Southern Hills Country Club on Sunday, TVs to his left and right showed Justin Thomas and Will Zalatoris preparing for a playoff in the 104th PGA Championship. Pereira answered a few questions. Then, someone was smart enough to turn off the TVs.

Less than half an hour earlier, Pereira stood on the tee box of the 18th hole holding a 1-shot lead over Thomas and Zalatoris. Had Pereira carded a par on the final hole, he would have become the first man from Chile to win a major championship and the first PGA Tour rookie to win one in 11 years.

Instead, Pereira pushed his tee shot into a creek on the right side of the fairway. He took a drop and a one-shot penalty. Pereira then blasted his approach shot across the green. If he could get up, he still had a chance of making the playoff. His chip shot was a miss and he rolled off the green. He made a double-bogey 6 and needed two more putts. He tied for third at 4 over.

Pereira, 27, entered the final round at 9 under and had a 3-shot lead. He shot 5-over 75 on Sunday.

“Obviously, sad to be here and not in the playoff, not make par, just straight win,” Pereira said. “On 18, I wasn’t even thinking about the water. I just wanted it to go in play and I guess I was too focused. I hit the water.

” I mean, I wish it could happen again. “

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Pereira is the third player over the past 20 years to double-bogey the 72nd hole in a major and finish 1 shot out of a playoff. Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie both did it on the 72nd hole of the 2006 U.S. Open.

Pereira, who is 100th in the Official World Golf Ranking, said he made the same swing on No. 18 that he had the day before, when he blasted his drive down the middle. He tried to hit a low, straight cut but didn’t do it like a traditional swing.

” I felt the same,” Pereira stated. “I was not like really different. It was like this all day. I meant, I thought I was nervous on the first day. The second day, I thought I was nervous. The third day was the worst. The fourth day was horrible. I mean [Sunday] morning was difficult. “

Pereira barely missed a 12 1/2 -foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th hole that would have given him a 2-shot cushion.

Despite the crushing defeat, Pereira hopes his breakthrough performance in just his second start in a major will propel him to big things in the future. Pereira was consoled by his family, as well as fellow PGA Tour pros Joaquin Niemann, Sebastian Munoz, and Abraham Ancer after the round.

“It wasn’t how I wanted it to end this week, but it was a great result,” Pereira stated. “Played really well. [Sunday], It was really nerve-wracking. It was really difficult. I tried to manage it a bit. I thought I was going to win on 18, but it is what it is. We’ll have another one. “

England’s Matt Fitzpatrick, who played with Pereira and shot 3-over 73 to finish tied for fifth, felt bad about the way it ended.

“Mito was a wonderful kid, and we got to talking down the second. He’s just a really nice and down-to-earth child,” Fitzpatrick stated. It is hard to accept when that happens. It’s hard to believe it’s not you. He finishes with a par, and he has won the U.S. PGA. You feel for him and I’m sure he will have many more chances. “

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