PGA Championship drama: we all picked JT, didn’t we?

What kind of major golf championship was THAT?

No defending champion. Stupidity, Phil Mickelson.

No Chilean champion. Audacity, Mito Pereira.

No first-time champion. Step back, Will Zalatoris.

A champion who hit two shots in a row, in the final round, horribly, just like me? Why, salute to one of the best shotmakers in golf, Justin Thomas.

That’s what we got from Tulsa Town, with the 123rd PGA Championship at fabled Southern Hills Country Club.Another one of the PGA Tour’s better shotmakers, Shreveport’s Sam Burns, lurked in hailing distance of the lead Saturday and Sunday, leaving us with anticipation for Father’s Day weekend and the U.S. Open, and many majors to come.

Burns was never quite close enough Sunday to make you think that Shreveport-Bossier might produce another major champion at Southern Hills – or a third Wanamaker Trophy winner, following Hal Sutton (1983) and David Toms (2001). Former local caddie and club pro Tommy Bolt, who moved to Shreveport when he was 6 and dropped out of Byrd High in his sophomore year, won the first major played at Southern Hills, the 1958 U.S. Open, four shots better than a fairly famous foreigner, Gary Player.

Back to Burns for a moment. He’s got the talent and the game and the low-key personality that is comparable to Thomas. After the Calvary Baptist grad and LSU All-American narrowly missed a spot on the 2021 Ryder Cup team, none other than Mickelson, then a USA vice captain, said this:

“Look at Sam Burns, he was inches away from being on (the team). He’ll most likely, definitely, be on the next one. I just don’t see how a guy that talented won’t be.”

There’s one thing, in fact, one of the last things, that Phil’s said that’s easy to understand.

His reprehensible alignment with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf loop starting up with big money appearance guarantees is rooted in his horrific gambling losses and continuing financial stumbles. A guy whose persona has been undeniably charming on the course and in the public eye reportedly blew $40 million betting from 2010-14. Not a crime, but a shame.

It was a shame when he withdrew from playing in Tulsa, not wanting to face the barrage of pointed questions that his battle with the PGA Tour and his dubious decisions warrant. In the aftermath of so much stupidity, Mickelson smartly ducked out of sight. Painful, but prudent. There are really no acceptable answers for Phil the Pariah.

That left the stage open for the impossible – Tiger Woods’ valiant effort to complete on a mangled leg – and the improbable, with a talented but unproven Pereira poised to par the final hole Sunday to take a permanent place in golf history.

But Mito took a baseball swing with his driver, bouncing his tee ball into a creek on the way to a disastrous double bogey, and thrusting Thomas into a playoff with Zalatoris, another young gun on the Tour.

Don’t know if this mattered, but it seems likely. After both players birdied the first extra hole, as Zalatoris tried to match Thomas driving the 17th green, just before he started his swing, in the silence, a siren sounded. Zalatoris didn’t back away and his tee ball nearly finished in a hazard. Thomas birdied again, the upstart parred, and the deal was all but done.

On 18, Thomas hit the perfect drive, the perfect approach, two-putted for par and thanked his lucky stars.

How lucky? He pointed it out immediately. He is surely the first major champ to overcome a dead shank in the final round. One like we hit. Five-iron, dead right off the No. 6 tee on a par-3, 108 yards into a tree. Second shot? Just like us. Off another tree, just seven yards closer, 102 from the pin. Oh, and in a bunker, those traps at Southern Hills that the players griped about all week because the grainy sand made for Okie Roulette.

Then the real JT arrived. A picture-perfect pitching wedge to 18 feet, followed by a laser-guided putt to the cup, for the best bogey he’ll ever make. At the 11th, he was four shots off Pereira’s pace, and 64 feet away from a birdie. He waved his magic wand, drained the putt and dropped the gloves for a fight past the finish.

The chump who shanked on the sixth? Same guy. My kind of champ. Shank you very much.