Michael Block. Jonathan Bachman
Not only was it understandable that Michael Block struggled on Thursday at the Charles Schwab Challenge, it was expected. It’s been a whirlwind of a few days for the 46-year-old club pro, not to mention the fact he was coming into Colonial completely blind, having never even stepped foot on the property before.
That said, Colonial is the quintessential shot-shaper’s track. A Harbour Town-like layout that brings the older, shorter hitters like Block into the mix. As unlikely as it sounds, there was an alternate universe where Block carried over the momentum from Oak Hill and played some decent golf on the iconic Perry Maxwell design.
Unfortunately for Block, and for his merry band of Blockheads on social media, this is the real world and the real world has a way of punching you in the mouth even in the best of times. Block came out of the gates bogey-bogey-bogey on Thursday, a tough start to recover from on a random day at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club let alone in the opening round of a PGA Tour event.
Impressively, he nearly did, making a birdie at the fourth to get one back and then playing the rest of the front nine in even par for a two-over 37. All things considered, not the worst start, and it almost featured yet another fairy-tale moment at the par-4 ninth:
Michael Block was THIS close to an eagle hole-out 😳 pic.twitter.com/ULcar2WZJM
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 25, 2023
The very next hole, Block pulled off one of the sicker recovery shots you’ll see on tour this year after his tee shot at the 10th somehow came to a stop on a bridge.
Nobody can say this man doesn’t have a serious flair for the dramatic. What. A. Showman.
Things, predictably, came crashing down from there, with Block going on another stretch of three straight bogeys and then truly imploding late. He double-bogeyed three of the last four holes, finishing with an 11-over 81 that placed him in dead last by four strokes. Not surprisingly, he summed it up nicely afterward.
“It’s one of those days of golf. If you play golf, you know exactly what just happened,” said Block. “So I don’t really need to explain it too much because, if you are a golfer, you’ve had the day I’ve had. You understand the facts of where the lies aren’t good and the trees are in your way every time. Even your good shots are bad, your bad shots are worse, et cetera, et cetera.
“It is what it is. I’m going to live with it,” he added. “I thought it was going to happen that third or fourth round last week at Oak Hill, and it never happened. It happened now, and I wasn’t surprised by it, to tell you the truth. The experience I had last week was next level. So today, coming out here and not having my game at all and having a lot of bad luck or whatever you might call it, just call it golf. It is what it is. At the same time, I sat there, and I thought about it, and I said, I’m going to see my boys tomorrow night.”
The perfect perspective. This was always going to happen, and the fact that it didn’t happen last weekend in Rochester should never be described as anything but heroic. Everyone, Block included, expected him to crumble under the weekend pressure at a major, and if he did it still would have been a great story. To do what he did cannot be praised enough.
Of course, the naysayers of social media are likely relishing in the fact Block came crashing back down to earth, particularly after his quotes regarding Rory McIlroy’s length on a podcast appearance. Bad news for them is Block gets another crack at Colonial on Friday, and then he gets to finally go home and soak it all in with his family and friends while everyone hates on him from behind a screen. Think he’ll be just fine.
“I’m looking forward to coming out tomorrow and playing a great round and giving it everything I have,” said Block. “I’ve shot 58, and I’ve shot a 59 in my life, and since what I had today, I wouldn’t be surprised if I did it. So if I do, cool. If not, I’ll be seeing my kids and my wife tomorrow night in Orange County, California. It’s all good one way or the other.”
Amen to that.
A surprise leader
Taking a look at the field list pre-tournament, one couldn’t help but wonder if this was yet another elevated event, with Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth, Max Homa, Sam Burns and a number of other top players rolling into Fort Worth after the PGA Championship. And if elevated events have taught us anything, it’s that the cream will rise to the top.
Turns out, the Charles Schwab is not an elevated event, and the stars of this field were either suffering a little major hangover or England’s Harry Hall was simply playing a different course than them on Thursday. His career-low eight-under 62 has him in the lead by three strokes over Harris English.
Making it that much more impressive was the fact this was Hall’s first round at Colonial. When asked if this must be his favourite course now, he said: “Hopefully it will be by the end of the week.”
Long way to go, but it’s a safe bet that if Hall wins for the first time on tour, Colonial will definitely be in his favourite-courses conversation.
A (somewhat) concerning stat for Jordan Spieth
Up until his recent wrist flare-up, Jordan Spieth was absolutely humming. He’s-going-to-win-any-week-now type stuff. A ball-striking clinic. Given his history of success at Colonial, this felt like a great spot for him to pick up his first win of the year.
Should Spieth shoot something silly on Friday, it could still very well be, though it’s an uphill battle now after he opened with a two-over 72 on Thursday. That’s notable because Spieth has never shot an over-par round in the first round at the Charles Schwab Challenge:
This also marks just the third time he’s shot 72 or worse at Colonial in his last 31 rounds here. It’s a place he could get around in even par with his eyes closed, which makes you wonder if the wrist is a little worse than he’s leading on. Or, quite simply, he could have just had a bad day.
He sounded not too concerned with the “moderate grade tendon sheath tear” earlier this week, but he also mentioned that the injury in question can “be pretty significant and it can be very insignificant.” Obviously, he’s banking on it being the former, as he continues to play through it. For now it sounds like a week-to-week thing, which is a shame given just how well he was hitting the ball and how high everyone was on him before something popped while he was playing with his son a few weeks back.