SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Jeff Overton pumped his fist Sunday and broke into a wide smile when he finished the PGA Championship.
He is virtually a lock to make his first Ryder Cup team. But that wasn’t the cause of his mock celebration.
Playing alone in the first group off when ailing Ian Poulter withdrew, Overton walked 18 holes at Whistling Straits in 2 hours, 9 minutes, to break the PGA Championship record for quickest round.
“Awesome! My first record at a major,” Overton said.
It beat the previous mark – by one minute – set by Phil Blackmaar at Crooked Stick in 1991.
The record is not official, of course. But the information came from Kerry Haigh, the championship director for the PGA of America, so somebody is keeping track of this stuff – even if Overton wasn’t.
And it’s not as if he didn’t care, at least at the start of his round.
He was aware Poulter was suffering from a chest infection and that he would be playing by himself. Overton opened with a bogey, took double bogey on the fourth and figured there wasn’t much left for him to do but finish.
“I gave it my best, especially early,” he said. “I got some bad breaks, and the next thing I know I said, ‘Let’s go ahead and get this round over with.”’
He finished the front nine in one hour, and made a clutch 7-foot putt for par on the last hole to shoot 79.
In relatively mild conditions Sunday morning, caddie Eric Larson was sweating. Larson has experience with fast play, having worked with Mark Calcavecchia several times.
“Calc can’t run down some of these hills,” Larson said.
Overton was playing for the eighth time in 10 weeks and was exhausted. Closing with a 79 most likely will have no bearing on finishing among the top eight in the Ryder Cup standings to earn a spot on his first team. He is at No. 5, with two of the three players directly below him having missed the cut.
It would take a mathematical miracle Sunday for Overton not to finish among the top eight, and the realization began to sink in. Overton studied the list well going into the PGA Championship, doing everything but pushing a pencil.
Still, he wasn’t quite ready to celebrate. He conceded that the scenarios to bump him out of the top eight would be the equivalent of someone shooting a 59 in the final round.
“And I’ve had a 59 shot on me,” he said, referring to Stuart Appleby at the Greenbrier.
Overton would be the first American in the Ryder Cup to have never won on the PGA Tour. Oliver Wilson of England has yet to win as a professional and played the last Ryder Cup.
Overton, a 27-year-old from Indiana, played as consistently as anyone this year. After starting out with no top 10s in his first 10 tournaments, he spent two weeks working with his old coaches, hired Larson as his caddie and took off – runner-up in New Orleans and Dallas, third in Colonial, third at the AT&T National.
Then, he added Greenbrier at the last minute because it had a big purse, and finished second to Appleby.
Overton never dreamed he would be in this spot at the start of the year.
“I had no idea what it took, what the requirements were,” Overton said. “But that would be awesome. I’m looking forward to getting over there. I feel like I’m playing as good as anyone.”
On Sunday, he was playing as quickly as anyone ever has in the PGA Championship.