By TOM LaMARRE
Other than Brooks Koepka winning the PGA Championship for the third time last week, the best story that came out of the second major of the season was the play of teaching pro Michael Block, who tied for 15th.
And it will continue this week because Block, Director of Golf at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, has received an exemption to play in another PGA Tur event, the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
“It was a little bit of a hassle because I had to change my flight plans from Southern California to Texas,” joked the 46-year-old Block, who has been a sensation on social media this week.
In addition to earning a spot in the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Country Club in Louisville, Ky., by making a clutch seven-foot par putt on the last hole, Block received the award for the lowest score in the tournament by a PGA teaching as he was the only one to make the cut.
Then he got the telephone call inviting him to play this week in Texas.
“I’ve said it a lot, but it’s just a dream,” Block said when he spoke to the media in Texas on Tuesday. “I’m just cruising. I’m actually kind of glad that at this point that I haven’t come to the reality about what’s happening so I can actually play pretty good golf. I think, if I sit down and think about it too much, I’m not sure I could swing the club on Thursday.
“I really apologize to all my friends and fans and PGA members out there that have texted me. I’m sorry I haven’t gotten back to you. I literally scroll and scroll and scroll, and it’s never-ending. I can’t even get to the bottom of any of my feeds to even see how many there are or who’s seeing me. So it’s been crazy.”
One person Block did exchange texts with was basketball great Michael Jordan.
This all came about because of Block’s incredible performance on Sunday, when he made an incredible hole-in-one with a seven iron from 151 yards on the 15th hole in the final round while playing alongside another superstar, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.
“I’m a big Jordan guy my whole life,” said Block, who earned $288,333 for his tie for 15th place finish. “I was a little kid in Iowa saving 100 bucks for a pair of Jordans back in the day. Pretty darn cool, to say the least.”
The most Block had earned before in a tournament was $75,000 at the 2014 Club Professional National Championship at the Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach, Fla.
Now he’s got a chance to make some more money, because he has received offers of up $50,000 for the seven iron that he used to make the hole in one from several fans, but he’s really not interested.
“I’ve had a few different offers actually,” said Block, who has been the SCGPA Player of the Year nine times. “It’s crazy, right? I’ve had a couple different offers, and the initial response was it was $50,000 and I’d hand deliver it. Kind of kiddingly, but I guess not really anymore.
“But I’ve had other people ask about it to maybe have it preserved in certain spots for the PGA, et cetera, stuff like that. So it’s up in the air. For right now it just needs to hit shots in there close for me, and I’ll go from there. The way things are going, I’m not going to let it out of my sight.”
Block is going to need it again on Thursday.
1. Scottie Scheffler, United States – Regained the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings by tying for second in the PGA Championship, and has victories in the Players and in the WM Phoenix Open among 10 results in the top 10 this season. Last year in the Schwab, Scheffler led most of the way before Sam Burns beat him with a 38-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole.
2. Viktor Hovland, Norway – After finishing in a tie for second next to Scottie Scheffler in the PGA Championship, Hovland climbed back into the top 10 in the world rankings at No. 6. He won the Hero World Challenge and has six finishes in the top 10 on the PGA Tour this season. Tied for 21st in the Charles Schwab Challenge last year after tying for 23rd in his debut in 2020.
3. Jordan Spieth, United States – Tied for 29th in the PGA, but his ailing left wrist didn’t seem to bother him. Despite the injury, Spieth has five top-10 finishes recently, including a tie for fourth in the Masters, a tie for second at Harbour Town and a tie for third in the Valspar. Claimed one of his 13 PGA Tour victories in the 2016 Schwab and was second in 2015, 2017 and 2021.
4. Tony Finau, United States – Has won the Houston Open and the Mexico Open this season to give him six victories on the PGA Tour, including four in the last two seasons. Finau, who has 11 results in the top 25 this season, is making his seventh start in the Charles Schwab Challenge, and he finished second in 2019 and tied for fourth last year, when he closed with 68-67-67.
5. Sungjae Im, South Korea – Before missing the cut in the PGA Championship, Im had six consecutive finishes in the top 25 and 12 on the PGA Tour this season, with his best a tie for fourth in the Farmers Insurance Open and a tie for sixth in the Players Championship. He is making his fifth start in the Schwab, and he tied for 10th in 2020 and tied for 15th last year.
6. Justin Rose, England – After winning at Pebble Beach for his 11th PGA Tour victory and 25th as a pro, Rose tied for sixth the Players and tied for ninth in the PGA Championship last week. He claimed one of those 25 victories in the 2018 Charles Schwab Challenge by three strokes when he posted two rounds of 64, and also tied for third in 2020, when he opened with 63.
7. Cam Davis, Australia – Winner of four tournaments as a pro, including the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic, Davis is getting close again by tying for sixth in the Players, tying for seventh in the RBC Heritage and tying for fourth in the PGA Championship last Sunday. He made his Rocket Mortgage Classic last season and led after an opening 66 and finished in a tie for seventh.
8. Tommy Fleetwood, England – Nine-time winner as a pro was in the hunt in the PGA Championship before closing with a 71 to finish 18th after tying for fifth in the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for third in the Valspar Championship and tying for fourth in the CJ Cup in South Carolina earlier this season. Fleetwood tied for 35th in his Schwab debut last season.
9. Max Homa, United States – The seventh-ranked Homa will try to bounce back from a tie for 55th in the PGA after winning the Fortinet and the Farmers in addition to posting nine finishes in the top 25 this season, including second in the Genesis and a tie for third in the Sony TOC. His best result in four starts in the Schwab was a tie for 23rd last year and he tied for 27th in 2019.
10. Collin Morikawa, United States – The 2020 PGA and 2021 Open champion closed with a 69 tie for 26th in the PGA, just missing his eighth top-25 of the season, including a tie for 10th in the Masters, a tie for 13th in the Players and second in the Sentry TOC. Morikawa lost on the first hole of a playoff to Daniel Berger in the 2020 Charles Schwab and tied for 14th in 2022.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Michael Block, United States; Sam Burns, United States; Emiliano Grillo, Argentina; Rickie Fowler, United States; Ryan Palmer, United States; Kurt Kitayama, United States; Si Woo Kim, South Korea; Russell Henley, United States; Brian Harman, United States; Min Woo Lee, South Korea.
1. Stephan Jaeger, Germany – Six-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour finished T-9 in Cadence Houston Open and also wound up T-11 recently in AT&T Byron Nelson by closing with a 63.
2. Ryan Fox, Australia – Has won 16 times around the world and opened with s 68 on his way to a T-23 in the PGA Championship. Fox also finished in T-14 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
3. Justin Suh, United States – Winner of the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Championship started 69-68 in the PGA, but faded to a T-26. Suh finished T-5 in the Honda and T-6 in Players this season.
4. Eric Cole, United States – Posted a T-15 in his first PGA Championship after opening with 67. Cole lost to Chris Kirk on first playoff hole in Honda and was T-5 in the Mexico Open this year.
5. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa – Ten-time winner as a pro finished T-3 in Joburg Open this season, and also wound up T-13 in the Players and T-11 in The American Express.
For first-round tee times and scores when the tournament starts, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard