PGA Championship: One bunker dooms two players with eerily similar mistakes
You can't win a major with one shot, but you can certainly lose it.
Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners learned that the hard way this week at the PGA Championship.
Both were seeking their first major title and both saw those hopes go up in flames with one fateful miscue on the 16th hole at Oak Hill Country Club.
In fact, it occurred in a nearly identical spot in a fairway bunker.
It was stunning how identical the scenarios played out.
AMAZING - TWICE IN TWO DAYS ..
With Viktor Hovland burying his tee shot into the bank at the same bunker at 16 that Corey Conners did a day earlier.#Golf can be a cruel game
✅ @TOURMISS pic.twitter.com/1bHZWswhI9
— Golf & Science News (@TOURMISS) May 21, 2023
Conners was the first to fall victim to it during his third round on Saturday, when he began the hole leading the tournament by a shot.
His drive leaked right and found the bunker, but the trouble really began on his second shot. With the ball sitting below his feet, he was unable to lift the shot above the lip of the bunker and the shot plugged into the front of it.
It was unplayable. Disaster.
Viktor Hovland's second shot caught the lip of the bunker.
He made double bogey on 16. pic.twitter.com/mzE4SN6rRE
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 21, 2023
He had to drop and take a penalty stroke, play his fourth shot from the rough and eventually wound up with a double bogey.
Suddenly, a one-shot lead turned into a one-shot deficit to eventual champion Brooks Koepka.
One day later, Hovland came to the same hole trailing Koepka by a stroke after going stride-for-stride with him all day in the final round.
It was déjà vu for viewers. Tee shot in the bunker. Ball below the feet. Second shot plugged into the lip. Penalty shot. Double bogey.
And for Hovland, it was essentially ballgame. His one-shot deficit ballooned to four after Koepka added insult to injury with a birdie on the 16th.
"I thought I handled myself pretty well today. Pretty unfortunate on 16 but still didn't feel like I gave it away," Hovland said after the round.
Conners never got much going in his Sunday round, so the fateful mistake on Saturday marked a clear turning point for him.
Koepka went on to win his fifth major title at 9-under, while Hovland finished two shots back and tied for second and Conners wound up tied for 12th.
Surely, Hovland and Conners will be left to wonder what could have been if not for that dream-killing bunker.