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Mito Pereira underwent perhaps the worst collapse in recent golf memory on Sunday afternoon.
Yet minutes later, somehow, he was still smiling.
“I guess you have so much pressure on your body, you maybe don’t even know what you’re doing,” he said with a laugh on CBS.
Pereira, after entering Sunday with a three-shot lead at the PGA Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, fell apart in his final round at Southern Hills Country Club. Though he held onto a one-shot lead at the tee box of the par-4 18th, he hit his drive into the water and then had to settle with a double bogey — which forced him out of a playoff at the second major championship of the year.
Just like that, his chances at a win were gone.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) May 22, 2022
“It’s tough to finish like that. Really good week. I didn’t play really well today,” he said on CBS. “Just needed to do a couple more birdies and just hit it a little bit better to win, but just happy with how the week turned out. On Monday, I just wanted to make the cut, and on Sunday, I wanted to win. I’ll really hold to that and take this to learn for the future.”
Mito Pereira: 'This morning was tough'
Pereira built up a three-shot lead heading into Sunday. He had a second-round 64 and a 2-under 68 on Saturday.
The start was incredible for the 27-year-old from Chile, who hasn’t won on the PGA Tour or even been in contention at a major championship. He’d competed in just the U.S. Open before in his career, but he missed the cut in 2019.
The nerves, he said, never left him the entire week.
“I thought I was nervous on the third day, but the fourth day was terrible,” Pereira said. “I mean, this morning was tough.”
Unfortunately for Pereira, it showed. He opened his day with three bogeys on his front nine, offset by a single birdie, and then was 3-over on the day heading into the final hole. He barely missed a birdie putt on No. 17 by inches, which would have given him a two-shot lead.
Instead, Pereira had to make a par to grab his inaugural win. That’s when his drive, which felt rushed, hooked right and landed in the water down the fairway, something he said he didn't think was possible.
Pereira then missed his approach, and subsequent chip, and finished with a double. That brought him to 4-under on the week, one shot back of Will Zalatoris and eventual winner Justin Thomas — who climbed out of a seven-shot hole for his second major victory.
“Walking down on 18, [I felt] just a little of both, like ashamed to be in that position … but on the other side, just happy to be there,” Pereira said.
“I mean, I finished third on my first major this year. I think I have to really just hold to that.”
Keeping that perspective right after watching the biggest win of his career slip away is huge, considering what he had just missed out on. A win at the PGA Championship would have been career-altering for someone still looking for a Tour win and entered the week at No. 100 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Though he’s sure to think about that final hole at Southern Hills for a long, long time, Pereira is leaving Oklahoma with his head held high.
“I just played really good golf [for] three days,” he said. “Get a little bit of experience for this fourth in the final group on a tough course that you have to hit it well. If not, you're going to shoot 5-over. I just didn't hit it really well today, and for next time, I'll just be a little bit more prepared.”