K.H. Lee may have found the secret to TPC Craig Ranch and the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic, winning the event for the second straight year, but another question hangs on the horizon.
What does it mean for the PGA Championship this week at Southern Hills?
For Lee, it was a spectacular performance culminating with a final-round 63 to separate himself from a crowded leaderboard that at one point had eight players tied for the lead on Sunday.
“It’s just like a dream again, just like last year,” Lee said.
While TPC Craig Ranch lacked the teeth that Southern Hills is expected to flash this week (Lee shot 26-under-par 262, and 13 other players finished 20-under or lower), it stoked the anticipation for the PGA Championship.
Runner-up Jordan Spieth will roll into Tulsa having finished 1-2 in his last two starts, and he again looks like the guy who thinks he can do anything on the course. He’s made no secret of how much he wants to win his hometown event in Dallas, and he gave himself a great chance, only to be edged by Lee, who made a brilliant par-save on the short par-3 17th to maintain his slender advantage.
Based on his recent play, Spieth could have his best chance yet to complete the career Grand Slam at a place where putting may be the deciding factor.
“I thought I made some really nice 5-foot sliders down the stretch,” Spieth said.
“Those putts are really nice to make. Those are ones that I just (had a) good fluid stroke, more judging line and speed. I was more outwardly focused than stroke focused. So that's really important under pressure as I look into a major.”
Xander Schauffele’s closing 61 also caused some bells to ring. What had been a quiet season by his standards turned last month when he teamed with Patrick Cantlay to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
The good vibes continued at the Nelson where Schauffele made the cut on the number then found himself with a share of the lead midway through the final round, sending him to Southern Hills with plenty of momentum.
“Just some good affirmation I’m doing the right things,” Schauffele said after his T5 finish. “Just positive things for the game. Seeing the ball go in the hole, which is a really important thing before a major.
“I’m assuming it’s going to be very different. I heard the surfaces around the greens (at Southern Hills) are very difficult to chip. If you can shoot 61 around Southern Hills, I think that would be really good, but it’s going to be slightly different.”
Other top players arrive at the PGA Championship in good form. Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, the world No. 1, finished tied for 15th. Justin Thomas, who keeps flirting with a breakthrough week, tied for fifth, three behind Lee. Hideki Matsuyama closed with 62 for a share of third place, and Sebastián Muñoz put himself in contention to win again.
“It confirmed what I’ve been knowing … that I have enough golf to compete out here to win tournaments, to do all this cool stuff that I’ve been doing,” Muñoz said.
Ron Green Jr.