TULSA, Oklahoma – Séamus Power wanted to see how his game measured up in the crucible of a major championship Sunday hunt. He’ll get his chance in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
Making only his second major start, Power has consistently improved every day in the most taxing weather conditions Oklahoma has to offer, shooting 71-69-67 to steadily rise up the leaderboard into contention. Four birdies in his last seven holes Saturday pushed him within striking distance of winning the Wanamaker Trophy.
“It was a little frustrating there around the turn,” said Power, whose 67 tied the second lowest score on Saturday. “Bogeyed 11, and then I actually hit it in the rough on 12, but guessed right coming out of the rough, and it got close. And that really got me turned into the right direction, and made some nice putts coming down the stretch.
“Like you said, it changes going from 1-over back to 3-under, especially on a course like this. Gives me a bit of momentum going into tomorrow.” Power, 35, is one of the few players to face the worst of the weather and make their way into contention. While the wind flipped and the temperatures dropped Saturday, Power relished the relative improvement in conditions.
“This is the easiest day, in my opinion, our wave has had,” he said. “Thursday evening, by the time we got out there, the greens are gone, with the sun and heat, they were a little crusty and bumpy and they weren't able to roll or cut them on Thursday night. And they were kind of the same on Friday morning.
“Today I noticed a massive difference. Obviously less guys on the course, and the greens are much smoother. For me, I was able to take advantage, make a few extra putts, and the rest of it was figuring out, like I said, the kind of whole new golf course, whole new targets, all that sort of stuff.”
Power made 86 feet of putts in just 26 strokes Saturday, saving his best work for the stretch run that included a 10-footer to save par on the 523-yard par-4 16th to keep his momentum going. He nearly hit the pin on the shortened par-4 17th and collected one last birdie to get to 3-under.
“I feel good; my game is in a good spot,” he said. “Seeing some putts going in there on the back nine today. Obviously I'm going to being a few back, but it's one of those golf courses, whoever is going to win it is going to earn it. I'll go out a little before any of the leaders. If I can get a couple birdies on the card, it can make the world of difference. …
“You need a couple breaks to go your way. Obviously you're hoping no one is going to run away from you today, and then tomorrow just kind of maybe make one of those 35-, 40-footers or maybe a little chip-in, and that can be the difference sometimes.” At one point Power’s clubhouse-leading number was only three off the lead of fellow second-time major starter Mito Pereira of Chile. But Pereira pushed the target number back to 8-under.
Regardless of what ground Power needs to gain, he seemed unaffected by his place in a majors mix.
“I think some of it is just my age, being a little older starting in the majors,” he said. “It just gives you a better perspective. It’s obviously a big tournament but it’s not the end of the world and everything is not going to come to an end no matter what happens tomorrow.
“I think having the perspective of being slightly older and having been through all the stages of it, you know that opportunities will come it’s kind of fun to be in the spot and fun to see how your game is going to hold up.” Power’s game and course management is in such good shape he plans to trust the blueprint he and caddie Simon Keelan have put together through the finish.
“For me it’s gonna be the same starting on the first tee tomorrow just trying to hit the shot that I am visualizing,” Power said. “Everything feels pretty good I’m rolling it well and I’m driving it well so hopefully there’s a lot of exciting opportunities tomorrow.” “I don't know, if I'm playing well tomorrow in contention, whether that's going to change,” he said of his calm demeanor thus far. “I'm obviously going to prepare as if it won't change, but I'll have a better kind of opinion on that after tomorrow probably.”