Why Not Block? PGA Pro Eyes History at Oak Hill
Michael Block used to question himself as he stood over every shot. Was he set up properly? Was his stance right? What about his grip pressure?
Then the PGA Professional from California started asking himself a new question.
In 2007, as he stood over a must-make 22-footer to advance out of a playoff to qualify for the U.S. Open, Block asked himself that very question. Why not make it?
He rolled in the putt and qualified for his first ever tournament.
Nearly two decades later, Block is still asking himself that question. This time in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, where he’s set out to not just make the cut but to also finish as the low PGA Professional in the field. Why not? At even par through 36 holes, he’s well on his way to achieving his goals.
“I feel like I've got the game this week to compete, to tell you the truth,” Block said after his round on Friday. “I've made the cut, which is obviously, like I told you, a huge goal. I feel like I could shoot even par out here every day. I feel like at the end of the four days that that might be a pretty good result.”
A member of the Corebridge Financial PGA Team, Block earned a spot in the field with a second-place finish at the PGA Professional Championship to make his fifth appearance in the major championship. He missed the cut in his prior four starts but has taken his game to a new level at Oak Hill.
Block carded back-to-back rounds of even-par 70 but could easily be leading the championship. Block jumped to the top of the leaderboard and sat one off the lead at 3 under par early on Friday. He had already started his second round while others were still completing their first round after play was suspended due to darkness. Block began his second round on the back nine and cruised to the top of the leaderboard with three birdies in his first five holes. Why not?
Friday, his only mistakes came on his second nine when he came up short of the green at the par-5 fourth hole and left himself in the rough with an awkward stance from which he failed to get up and down. He further compounded his mistake at the par-3 fifth hole where he shanked his tee shot and sent it rocketing to the right of the first tee box which resulted in a double bogey.
“I went bogey, double bogey. I said, ‘OK, your hands are getting too far out in front of you and getting too far away from you,’” Block said about his difficult stretch. “I played the last four holes feeling my hands a little tighter to the body through the impact zone, and I had 6-iron, 5-iron, and 4-iron into all those holes coming in, but I kinda flushed all those coming in. I was very happy with that.”
The hiccups over the closing stretch on Day 2 have been the only weaknesses Block has shown in his game this week.
Friday he looked every bit the part of the cool, California guy from Mission Viejo, rocking his gold Nike hoodie. He not only fit in but very much held his own amongst the world’s best. But when pushed for how much he’s really been able to prepare for this week, the full-time teaching professional admits it hasn't been much. The advantage for Block is that he knows the intricacies of the swing and it didn’t take him long to get his round back on track. He parred his way in for a second-round 70.
“I'm just your local club pro. That's what I do. I don't hit balls. People think I've got the best job in the world. I do have a great job,” Block said. “I have a very supportive club that lets me go play, but the amount of times I hit a bucket of balls is not even once a week.”
Block has more than figured out how to navigate his way around Oak Hill. Through 36 holes, he
is ranked inside the top 10 in the field in strokes Gained off-the-tee and sits No. 2 in driving accuracy. The 46-year-old not only thinks he’s got the game to compete with the best players in the world but his stats are proving as much.
And with his solid start to the week he may soon be asking himself his favorite question as he considers whether he can become not just the low PGA Professional but the winner. The last time a PGA Professional finished in the top 20 at the PGA Championship was in 1990. And the best finish ever by a PGA Professional was by Tommy Bolt, who finished third in 1971.
“To win, by far,” Block said when asked what would be his ultimate ‘why not?’ “As weird as it sounds, I'm going to compete. I promise you that.”
And why not?