ST. LOUIS — Sean McCarty beat Phil Mickelson.
That isn’t how Solon’s McCarty will remember the 2018 PGA Championship, but he could take some solace in shooting 3-over-par over 36 holes at Bellerive Country Club.
For one thing, his score was one shot better than golf icon Mickelson. It tied this year’s Masters champion, Patrick Reed. It was five shots better than two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, who has three PGA Tour wins this year.
For another, McCarty shot a 1-under 69 in the second round, which was completed Saturday morning after play was suspended for the day by rain late Friday afternoon. It was his second 69 in a major, matching the one he had in his other appearance in one, the 2003 U.S. Open.
Most importantly, McCarty gutted out a more-than-respectable performance — finishing three shots from making the 36-hole cut — with what he believes is a torn shoulder tendon he recently suffered. But if you saw him play Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, you wouldn’t have guessed he was injured.
“He just said ‘Let’s forget the problems and challenges and go play golf,'” said McCarty’s coach, Mark Egly of Des Moines.
“Everything he’s done here should inspire everybody back home.”
But McCarty, the 45-year-old head pro at Coralville’s Brown Deer Golf Club, naturally wanted more.
“I’m happy,” he said, “but I’m not happy.
“I felt really good yesterday. It was kind of unfortunate to have that rain delay. But that’s how it goes.”
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McCarty shot a 74 in Thursday’s first round, starting the round with two bogeys as he adapted to dealing with playing with the injury. But he came out strong Friday, and was 2-under on the front nine as he tried to play himself into the weekend.
When the horns sounded Friday suspending play, McCarty was 3-over overall and looking at a 17-foot birdie putt on No. 12. Badly needing to make the putt when play resumed Saturday at 7 a.m., he instead ran it 7 feet past the hole and then missed his par attempt.
“I got really gun-shy after three-putting it right out of the gates this morning,” he said. “That kind of scared me the rest of the day. I was a foot short the rest of the way.”
McCarty did quickly put the bogey behind him on the score card when his tee shot on the par-3 13th stopped 5 feet from the cup and he made his birdie putt. But needing three more birdies in the remaining five holes, he made five pars.
Physically, McCarty said he felt “a little better” in the second round than the first.
“Maybe because I made it through the first round OK and it didn’t get worse, I felt a little more comfortable coming into the second round.
“I talked to another doctor yesterday and he basically said I couldn’t damage it any more. I think that helped my confidence a lot more.”
Egly said his longtime pupil “hit an amazing amount of greens.” McCarty hit 77.7 percent of greens in regulation, the same figure as Kevin Kisner, who was 9-under through 36 holes and in second place.
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The difference was in the short game. Kisner and the leaders got closer to the hole on approach shots than McCarty. The Tour guys have a lot more experience playing with tucked pins. Also, McCarty didn’t putt as well as the leaders.
“I hit some good shots on some hard holes out there,” he said. “I just didn’t capitalize when I had the chances.”
“His ball-striking was every bit as good as it needed to be with all the stuff going on,” Egly said.
Don Patterson, the former Iowa football offensive coordinator and head coach at Western Illinois, is here working for CBS’ crew on the course. He saw McCarty par his final hole Saturday and then exit the course to a big round of applause from family and friends.
“He’s got a lot to be proud of, for sure,” Patterson said. “At age 45, no less.”
McCarty has a goal for age 46: To again finish in the top 20 of the PGA Professional Championship and earn a berth in this tournament.
He went 78-69 in the ‘03 U.S. Open. He went 74-69 here. Who’s to say he doesn’t have a 70-69 in him at a future major?
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