After a playoff between leaders, Justin Thomas is the 2022 PGA Champion following a thrilling, come-from-behind victory.
Thomas beat Will Zalatoris in a three-hole playoff to win.
Related Story: Justin Thomas Wins 2022 PGA Championship
PGA Championship Director Bryan Karns is chalking this up as a successful week and the energy walking into the gates was electric.
He said history was made at Southern Hills and it was a privilege to be a part of it.
It was two years of ‘ironing’ out the details for four days of Championship play.
After fighting hard on the fairways, a new champion has been named.
“We’ve got 96 of the top 100 players in the world so there’s not a stronger field," said Bryan Karns, PGA Championship Director.
The greens could be seen colored with 35 to 40 thousand spectators a day sporting golf gear.
“35 to 40 thousand has made this golf course feel very full but also not too full. That was a conversation we had particularly when Tiger, that energy kind of picked up, was do you sell more tickets? Do you want to get more people out here, and we said, 'No, we’re not gonna sell more tickets because we want the people to come out here, to get around, to be able to enjoy themselves and not feel overwhelmed by the size of the crowds,'" said Karns.
“Even some people have been flying from Italy. I’ve even had someone who lives 30 minutes away from me in Scotland that’s been able to come up and do it. There’s been people from South America, Canada," said Liam Currid.
“Most people think it’s an old man’s game but really, you have to be as fit as soccer players, baseball players, whatever, because like 18 holes in 100-degree heat, you’re really, really tired by the end of it. It’s really not an easy game. It’s talking centimeters and millimeters of being perfect. Holes in ones are not easy. Check pins aren’t easy, putting, it's all not easy.”
“This was a Christmas present," said Cameron Brown. “Driving up in the buses, they have the shuttles and everything, it’s a pretty cool experience. You’ve got all the gates and the walkout… it’s like its own little city right now. So, it’s crazy.”
“All across the spectrum. It’s really nice when you see little kids and the joy in their eyes. They just run straight up and we’re like, ‘We have kids golf clubs. They can do it too,'" said Kendall Brown. “I played [golf] in high school a little bit but I love to leisurely play with my dad.”
Southern Hills has hosted the PGA Championship a record five times.
Karns said Southern Hills continues to stay ahead of the game.
“That’s the reason we’re here for a record 5th time and that’s the reason I’m sure we’ll be back for a record 6th," said Karns.
The par 70 course is more than 7,300 yards of steep hills coupled with Oklahoma winds.
Oklahoma native and five-time PGA Championship Director Bryan Karns said the course was a fair but tough test.
“There are places to go out here and make birdies. There are places that are really going to challenge the golfers. The par 3's this week have been brutal,” said Karns. “It’s never ceased to amaze me. I’ve been around golf for 15 years and I’m still blown away when you see the ease with which they hit shots, the way that they chip, and putt versus the way I chip and putt.”
“Oh, it’s beautiful. It’s nice and open. You’ve got sightlines of multiple holes. It also looks really hard," said Bill Story.
“Haha yes, it looks really hard, and I think it's an old school course where the tee boxes and the greens are so close together," said Brad Johnson.
Karns said there were some fan favorites including Tiger Woods and John Daly.
“Tiger’s Tiger. Tiger’s the needle. When he’s out there he’s gonna have the biggest crowds. Beyond that, you get the local favorites. Obviously, you get John Daly. He still has an unbelievable following. I think a lot of the local guys. The Ricky Fowlers, the Taylor Gooch’s, the Matt Wolff’s. They had a ton following Viktor Hovland. The Oklahoma State guys. I saw a lot of orange out there. See a lot of crimson as well. Abe Ancer," said Karns.
Karns said many kids don't care about clout.
“What’s cool for me is that you’ll see a little kid and you’ll go up and stop and say ‘hey great you got an autograph. Who’d you get an autograph from and they’ll just throw out a random name maybe, or some player that’s 80th in the world and all the sudden that’s their favorite player because that player came over and talked to them for a minute, signed their hat, gave them a high five," said Karns.
“This is really fun. Yeah," said some kids. “They need to come next time it’s here.”
Karns saw Tiger take home the title at Southern Hills in 2007 and said even though he withdrew watching him this week meant more.
“The fact that, that guy you know gutted it out on Friday afternoon when it looked like maybe he was gonna miss the cut and instead of just laying down, I mean, he’s got nothing left to prove. He’s accomplished everything in the sport and so even just having him out here and you could see at times the struggle, the pain he was in, it just shows you how much he cares," said Karns.
For him, it's about the people.
“The golf is the golf, right? Like that’s awesome. The golf fans are gonna come out and enjoy, but for me, it’s about how are we connecting other groups to the game, whether it’s people who don’t necessarily enjoy golf or they don’t have a golf background, or maybe just don’t have the ability to come out to Southern Hills; that golf has not been accessible to them previously. To see those kinds of people out here, that’s what it’s all about. Cause we’re gonna crown a champion no matter what. There’s gonna be 156 of the best golfers in the world out there playing and they’re gonna finish out there tonight, but if in the meantime, we can make an impact and raise money for charity and really give local businesses in Tulsa a boost that they’ve desperately needed, then that’s really the bigger story," said Karns.
He went on to say how grateful he is for everyone involved.
“Whatever role they played this week, whether it was someone that was bartending at Elgin Park Downtown and they were just serving customers all week, the people at the airport as people got off the plane, there were tens of thousands of people potentially that played a role in the world. Whether it was media, people outside, or ticket buyers. You know, whoever came in, it took that many people to help showcase Tulsa like this and just the comments about how friendly people are. How warm, how welcoming, how the moment they got off the plane they just felt like, 'Hey, we’re in someplace special,' and because for so many of those people it’s their first time in Tulsa, their first time maybe for an extended period of time in the state or in this region, it matters a lot. I mean it matters when national companies are coming in and they realize, ‘Wow this is, I had a different expectation of Tulsa.’ And so, I think just, from the bottom of my heart, I want to express my gratitude to everyone that did that. Everyone went out of their way to say you know, 'The PGA is in town, we think this is a big deal, we understand the impact it has on our local community; it has on our economy and the state of Oklahoma, the city of Tulsa,' and took the time to say 'Hello,' to give a little extra hospitality, to let someone know that this does matter, this matters. And it might be 6 months, a year, 2 years before we really start to reap those benefits, but they’re coming because this absolutely validates Tulsa 100% again as a premier sports destination," said Karns.
Karns said this has been the highlight of his career.
“How does it get better? How do I top this? How do I do something that not only is this much fun for me professionally but also means this much personally,” said Karns? “I almost can’t walk 10 feet without seeing someone either that I’ve been working with here or maybe just someone that I haven’t seen for 15 years.”
The cleanup is expected to take about 2 months.
"It’ll be a day or two of recovery emotionally. Just the emotional hangover of it’s done because it really is the most depressing feeling to come out the day after as it starts to tear down. It’s a little devastating," said Karns. “I’m sure it’ll hit me like a dump truck after this is all over. That’s when I start to really feel the emotion’s come out a lot of times is on the 18th tee.”
Karns said a lot of folks will be hopping on a flight to Michigan from here for the Senior PGA.