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Pereira clings to lead as back-nine PGA drama begins

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Chile’s Mito Pereira, who made only his second big start, clung to a one-stroke turn lead in Sunday’s PGA Championship final round as the trophy battle began.

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The 27-year-old from Santiago squandered a three-stroke lead, regained it, then spooked back-to-back on the seventh and par-3 on the eighth hole before par-saving with a 13-footer on the ninth to stay 7-under in the South Hills.

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Americans Will Zalatoris and Cameron Young were one stroke behind in the 6th under nine holes, and England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick was fourth in the 5th under, all trailing Pereira in a tense crucible as they raced for their first major title.

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American Justin Thomas, 2017 PGA winner, made three birdies in four holes starting at the ninth and was fifth 4th under, just three behind Pereira.

Since John Daly in 1991, no player has won in his debut PGA championship, but 100th-seeded Pereira was trying to pull off the feat after missing out on the 2019 US Open cutback in his only previous major start.

Pereira, who gave up golf for two years as a teenager, may become only the third South American to win a major title, after Argentina’s Roberto de Vicenzo, the 1967 British Open champion, and Angel Cabrera, who won the 2007 US Open and the 2009 Masters.

Pereira’s opening three-stroke lead vanished, starting with his six-foot par lead on the third par-4 hole.

Zalatoris hit a five-foot birdie on the fourth, then hit par-5 on the fifth green of two and pressed the birdie to share the lead.

But Pereira hit a three-foot birdie putt in fifth and single-handedly reclaimed the lead from 9th.

Zalatoris then narrowly escaped disaster on the sixth par-3 after his tee shot hit the bushes behind the green. He took a free fall into the seam of the cart lane, chipped up to eight feet, and twisted in a terrifying impact.

On the seventh, Zalatoris drove into the right rough, flopped into a bunker on the green and missed a 10-foot par shot to fall back where he started three behind Pereira and then par saved from eight feet after a bearish water detection on the target in the par-3 eighth .

Pereira, meanwhile, hit a tree from the seventh tee on his way to a ghost ball, then missed the eighth green and missed a 14-foot par, setting up his dramatic nine-hole shot to maintain the lead.

Zalatoris, runner-up at last year’s Masters, has finished in the top 10 in four of the previous seven major starts.

Young, 25, has finished second three times this season but has missed his previous three big starts.

Fitzpatrick, a seven-time DP World Tour winner, has not been in the top six in his previous 27 major starts.

World No. 17 Fitzpatrick, 27, and Zalatoris, No. 30, 25, are the highest ranked players not to win the US PGA Tour. Since 2011, no player has won a major for their first US tour title.

Four-time major tournament winner Rory McIlroy, who started nine slower, hit with four birds in a row, climaxing on the fifth hole, but a bogey on six and 10 pair in a row before another bogey on 17 left him drifting five.

– Shpit, Ram is well back –

England’s Justin Rose and Tyrrell Hatton hit 68 shots each and tied the club’s lead with a par 280 over 72 holes.

Three-time world champion Jordan Spieth, who could have triumphed in a career Grand Slam, scored 69 and finished with a score of 284.

Runner-up John Rahm, the reigning US Open champion from Spain, would have overtaken Masters winner Scotty Schefflera to take the top spot in the world rankings with a win. He shot 68 and finished with a score of 286.

“A good game is a kind of consolation prize, but only mistakes,” Ram said. “The game is good. Swing feels good. So I’m not far off.”



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