Shocked Swede hits his ball into doctor's back pocket at PGA Championship
Jonas Blixt finds himself in contention for PGA Championship after wayward tee shot finds its way into back pocket of a spectator's trousers
For Jonas Blixt, a 29-year-old Swede, the third round of the PGA Championship was a day of sound and unblemished golf. He did not have a bogey and played seamlessly as he charged into title contention entering the final round.
But there was one blip for Blixt.
On the 18th hole, he hit his tee shot into the back pocket of a retired doctor's trousers.
But Blixt apparently knows something about playing by the seat of your pants. For starters, he knew the applicable rule.
"I didn't have to play it from there," he said.
Blixt got a free drop near where the fan stood. With a five-iron, he lofted a shot to the 18th hole's treacherous plateau green. The ball landed a bit short, but one odd bounce will often beget another, so Blixt's ball skipped forward and rolled within three feet of the hole. His birdie putt rolled directly in the hole - as opposed to toppling in the side pocket - and Blixt had a brilliant round of four-under-par 66.
That put him at six under for the championship, three strokes behind the leader, Jim Furyk.
"I have never seen anything like that," Blixt said of a shot that was somehow wayward and accurate at the same time. "I'm very fortunate that the fan was standing where he was. It stopped the ball in a good place."
That comment elicited giggles from reporters. Blixt guffawed as well.
"Well, where I had to drop I didn't have to deal with too many trees and stuff like that," he said. "So, thank you, hat's off to someone who did that to me."
The fan was Muhammad Khokhar, who was watching the tournament with his son and two granddaughters.
"The ball hit me in the back, and then the next thing I knew it was in my pocket," Khokhar, 70, said.
Once Blixt made his way down the left side of the 18th hole, Khokhar, who did not appear injured, informed him where his drive had come to rest. Soon, Khokhar was holding the ball aloft over his head as Blixt laughed and the surrounding crowd cheered and chuckled.
The circumstances - the ball ending up in a fan's pocket and Blixt making a pivotal birdie on a taxing par-four - left Oak Hill Country Club abuzz. Blixt's playing partner, Lee Westwood, was astonished.
"How does that happen?" Westwood said. "I mean, these trousers I'm wearing are a bit tight. I couldn't get a card and a pencil in my back pocket, never mind a golf ball. So that gentleman is doing well to catch that on the fly in his back pocket."
Westwood, an Englishman mindful of American baseball and what state he was in, added: "I think the Yankees ought to sign him up."
Blixt is new to the spotlight. When he had to step onto a small, raised platform to address the news media, he said: "This feels a little weird to be here. It feels like going back to college speech class. I hated that. Now it's even worse."
He was engaging though, saying that he was unsettled for the first three holes after drinking too much coffee.
He seemed surprised a major championship was in reach. That may be a new experience, but Blixt was still making a few promises. "No coffee," Blixt said. "Absolutely not. Nothing weird tomorrow."