Michael Block authoring a blockbuster at PGA Championship
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Club pro Michael Block is T8, will play Sunday alongside Rory McIlroy
Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Michael Block’s magical week at the PGA Championship has officially moved into Fantasyland.
The longtime Southern California club pro became a golf sensation when he pulled within a shot of the lead during the second round at Oak Hill. It was a feel-good Friday story as he finished the day T10, but a club pro has never finished top 10 at the PGA Championship. Conventional wisdom suggested a fade to the middle of the pack. Even if that happened, it was still a bucket-list week, the final box to check on his lengthy competitive resume.
But then Block did the near-impossible: on a soggy Saturday in western New York, he moved up the leaderboard. Block, 46, carded a third-round 70 to move into a tie for eighth entering Sunday’s final round.
There’s a treasure trove of potential gifts at the end of his Oak Hill rainbow. A top-10 would earn him a spot at next month’s RBC Canadian Open; a top-four would bring an invitation to next year’s Masters. Based on current criteria, a top-15 would mean a return to the PGA Championship. A two-way T3 would bring Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR.
The thought borders on the absurd. And as Block wrapped up his media tour Saturday evening in the Oak Hill twilight, he learned the kicker. He will compete alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday, in the fourth-from-last pairing at 2 p.m. Eastern. A mid-40s club pro alongside a mega-star?
“I should’ve figured,” Block laughed when discussing his Sunday pairing. “If you guys had been like, ‘Guess who you’re paired with?’ I would have been like, ‘Rory.’ Oh my gosh.”
Club pro Michael Block’s magical week continues
Block’s routine between the second and third rounds wouldn’t have suggested anything out of the ordinary. He picked up a friend from the airport Friday night and grabbed Chick-fil-a. On Saturday morning, he watched TV at his rental house as the rain cascaded across the Oak Hill property. Then he channeled the advice he would give his students at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club – “If there’s water on the ball, it’s going to spin more, and the turf is going to spin more.” He made four birdies on Saturday, bringing his total to 13 for the week, second-most in the field.
That precision has allowed him to overcome challenges. For the second straight day, Block hit an errant shot that could have sent the round sideways. Friday, it was a shanked mid-iron on the par-3 fifth, his 14th of the day, that led to a double bogey. This day, it was a tee shot wide left on the par-4 sixth that led to another double.
He missed left again on the next hole, then faced a 179-yard third shot from the left rough. But he got it on the green and drained an 18-footer to save par. He was off and running from there.
When it looked like the moment had become too big, Block decided it wasn’t.
“I'm sitting here right now absolutely blown away by this experience, but at the same time I'm blown away by how my game has actually shown up,” Block said. “My game that I've always had.”
This might be as good as it gets, and Block is OK with that. He’s realistic about his place in the game. He’s dominant on the club pro circuits back home, named the Southern California PGA Player of the Year in nine of the last 10 years, but this is his 25th TOUR start and he has yet to finish better than 69th place. He was 0-for-6 in cuts made in majors before this week. He knows he surrenders distance to most touring pros.
So why not enjoy it?
“Before you know it, you're 60 years old and retired and look back at the videos on this and remember that was the best week of my life, and more than likely this is probably going to be the best week of my life,” Block said. “So I'm going to sit back as much as I can with my friends and family at the house we rented and watch the videos tonight and see all my new followers on Instagram. It's been crazy, it's been awesome.
“It’s been really cool, and my biggest thing is just enjoying the moment for sure.”
Saturday’s pinch-me moments included a visit from Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen on the practice range and the round’s commencement alongside playing partner Justin Rose, whom he has admired for years. Block resolved not to look Rose in the eye until he was settled into the round – “I knew it could get a little too intimidating, so I literally just kind of looked down, looked at his shoes the first couple holes … and went on from there.”
Maybe when he greets McIlroy on Sunday afternoon, he’ll look him in the eye.
“It’s the first time for me (like) being a quarterback on the Buffalo Bills … I’m starting to feel how Josh Allen feels,” Block said. “It’s pretty cool. I want to be Josh Allen when I grow up.”
Block might not be giving himself enough credit.
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for PGATOUR.COM. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.