A Chip Off The Old Block – Michael Steals Brooks Koepka’s Thunder

By Ian John
May 22, 2023

Brooks Koepka may well have won the 2023 USPGA Championship at a tough Oak Hill course, but it was 46-year-old Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club professional Michael Block that stole the show with his incredible four days of action in the second Major of the year.

Block’s day-to-day job is a head professional at a public course in California, where alongside his usual professional duties in the clubhouse and club shop, he charges $150 for a 60-minute lesson.

One of a number of club professionals that are given entries into the USPGA Championship through a series of qualifiers, Block started the round hoping to put on a good show.

He ended it as possibly the most talked about golfer over the four days of action and with a miracle shot at the 15th that will go down in USPGA tournament history.

How the 2023 USPGA Championship Unfolded

First Round

Certainly, the USPGA Championship will be one that is fondly remembered by LIV Golf and its owners as one of its golfers landed the first Major from its tour.

Not only that but another LIV star, Bryson DeChambeau, started the round in excellent fashion posting a four-under par score of 66 in the opening round to be the clubhouse leader after a weather-delayed first round.

Close behind him were one of the favourites with bet365 Sport before the tournament, Scottie Scheffler (67) and Norwegian Ryder Cup star Viktor Hovland (68) and that trio of golfers remained in and around the top ten or better for the majority of the tournament.

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In contrast, Brooks Koepka started with a 72, while Rory McIlroy could only manage a one-over 71 as the tough conditions at Oak Hill saw an increasing number of players post over-par scores.

However, club pro Michael Block wasn’t one of them. The unheralded player, not a regular on the US Tour, produced a solid first round of 70, level par, which was deemed noteworthy at the time, if perhaps a likely one-off.

Many expected Block to struggle in the second round as some of his other club professionals had in the first, with a number of scores in the 80s.

Second Round

As the weather improved in New York state, so did the scoring with Brooks Koepka shooting the low round of the day 66.

However, it was Hovland and Scheffler along with Corey Conners who shared the lead at the half way stage as they posted scores of five-under par at the mid-way stage of the tournament.

Bryson DeChambeau was three-under with Rory McIlroy level par and Justin Rose at one-under par and Koepka was now at two under after his low score.

And while a number of club professionals didn’t make the cut, Michael Block most certainly did as he posted another level-par round of 70, leaving him well inside the top 20 of the tournament at the half-way stage and a pairing in the third round playing alongside Justin Rose was on the cards.

Third Round

The third round was a key one in the USPGA tournament of 2023 as it was when Brooks Koepka took control of the tournament by posting back-to-back 66’s leaving him the overnight leader on six under par.

However, behind him a number of British and European players were making a charge with Tommy Fleetwood posting the next best round of the day (68) and fellow English players Justin Rose and Tyrell Hatton both posting 69s.

Add to that a 69 from Rory McIlroy who moved one-under in the tournament as well as 70s from Hovland and DeChambeau and there were now relatively few players at par or better.

One of them was the incredible Michael Block, who posted his third par round of 70 alongside playing partner Justin Rose. In doing so he became one of just four players to shoot par or better on all three of their opening rounds of the tournament (Rose, Hovland and Conners were the others).

This meant that Block would start the final round inside the top ten and paired with the two-time winner of this event Rory McIlroy for the final round.

Final Round

In the end, it was Brooks Koepka’s consistency over the last three rounds that saw him win the tournament by two shots as he shot a 67 to finish on 9-under par.

He fended off challenges from the charging Scottie Scheffler and Victor Hovland who finished joint second on seven under par.

Bryson DeChambeau finished tied fourth with Kurt Kitayama and Cam Davis, with Rory McIlroy in join seventh with Sepp Straka and Justin Rose tied ninth with Cam Smith and Patrick Cantlay.

Michael Block though was two over par as he headed to the 15th hole and he was on the cusp of finishing in a high enough place to earn an automatic invitation to next year’s tournament.

That’s when the golfing gods had their say as he sent his tee shot high into the air and then straight into the cup without touching the green.

A bemused Block didn’t even realise that he had scored the ace, only realising when Rory McIlroy bounded over to give him a celebratory hug to confirm the ball had gone straight in.

It proved crucial as Block landed one more bogey and then scrambled home at the 18th to finish one over-par and just inside the mark for an automatic invitation next year.

And then he received the news he had landed the last sponsor’s exemption to play at The Colonial next week in Forth Worth.

Plaudits From Pundits

Block’s performance at the age of 46 stunned pundits and players alike and he drew huge amounts of praise for his 15th place finish.

“How in the world did he make this happen at the age of 46?,” queried Sky Sports commentator and 2002 USPGA Champion Rich Beem.

“Everything he did out there was absolutely extraordinary – what a great story, what a great round of golf, what a great week. The stuff dreams are made of.”

Rose & McIlroy Appreciation

After playing with Justin Rose in the third round Block stated “I’ve been watching Rosey for years. At the start I couldn’t look at him because if I did, I would have lost my mind.”

By now, the crowds had adopted Block as their new favourite and Rose appreciated how well his playing partner was performing in the tournament,

“I was along for the ride,” said Rose following his third round “The crowd love [Block] and e was vibing off it. He’s a great player, so carefree and a breath of fresh air.”

After the final round and a nice embrace between the pair, Rory posed for a picture with the disbelieving Block and then spoke to cameras about how his partner had played.

“When it’s your week, it’s your week,” said the Northern Irishman adding about that special hole-in-one “It was an amazing golf shot and a fitting way to cap off his championship.”

It was Block’s first ever hole in one in tournament play of any kind, and the first by a PGA Club pro at the USPGA since 1996.

“I’m living a dream – I just played with Justin Rose on a Saturday at a major and Rory McIlroy on a Sunday at a major. I’m not sure how it gets any bigger than that,” stated Block after he completed his final round.

His 15th place finish means he picked up the trophy for the best Club Pro performance at the USPGA this year, a cheque for $288,000, entry into next year’s tournament and a sponsors exemption for next week’s Colonial in Texas.

“I just got a call from Colonial, and I’m in next week as the last sponsor’s exemption, which is even more mind-boggling now,” said Block.

And there will be a few more fans tuning in to see how the likeable club pro can do in his second PGA Tour start in as many weeks.

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