The PGA Championship’s B Flight is shaping up for a fantastic finish
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — The sun cast long shadows at Bethpage Black as Dustin Johnson slowly strutted off the 18th green on Saturday night. Johnson rarely shows emotion, but he was dejected. He made a mess in the native area and bogeyed the last.
Until then he was the PGA Championship’s B Flight leader. Now he’s got more work to do, and it won’t be easy, since this year’s B Flight Battle (BFB) has been an instant classic.
The BFB is not a real thing, folks, but it should be. Given what Brooks Koepka has done to this PGA Championship — you know, winning it on Friday afternoon — fans need something else to watch, someone else to root for. Luke List knows what we’re talking about.
“I think we are all pretty much playing for second,” said List, who’s tied for second at five under through 54 holes but still a touchdown and a PAT behind Koepka. That’s true, Luke, but chin up — the BFB is still very much up for grabs and its champ will take home a cool $1.19 million!
If you’re just joining us, a quick recap of what has been of the most thrilling BFBs in years. Danny Lee had a three-shot lead after Thursday’s opening round before major-winners Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth found their form to grab a share of the lead after 36 holes. Five others were one behind! Now it’s coming down to the wire on Sunday night. Johnson, Jazz Janewattananond, Harold Varner III and List are all tied at five under, and 10 others are within four of the lead.
But don’t knock the PGA’s B Flight. Sure, the A Flight winner gets his name on the Wanamaker and a bigger check and a permanent parking spot and a New York City media tour, but the B Flight has its own perks. You still get a million bucks and get to skip all those press conferences, TV cameras and goofy morning shows. You simply hop in your jet and head back to Florida or Texas or South Carolina or wherever home is. The A Flight winner may ring in Wall Street on Monday morning, but the B Flight winner gets pancakes and OJ in his own kitchen.
If there was a PGA B Flight trophy, Sunday’s winner would get his name engraved next to some of the game’s best. Hall of Famers even! Tiger Woods edged Adam Scott last year and Francesco Molinari, Louis Oosthuizen and Patrick Reed shared the title at the Quail Hollow in 2017 (the B Flight does not conduct playoffs). Jason Day won it in 2016, Spieth in 2015 and Phil Mickelson in 2014. (That aforementioned trio has also won the PGA A Flight.)
On Saturday evening, List, Johnson and Janewattananond were tied at five under at 5 p.m., and 11 others were within four, until List made the third of three straight birdies to jump ahead. Then Johnson caught a wedge fat on 14 and made bogey, but he went birdie-par-par after and stood on the 18th tee leading the B Flight by one. Johnson is the favorite among these BFB contenders, but List is also a bomber and can keep up with Bethpage’s length. Jazz and Varner are the underdogs, and further down the list you have known commodities like Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele and Spieth. Anything can happen on a crazy Sunday on Long Island.
But back to the 18th tee. Johnson swung hard but dumped his tee shot into a fairway bunker. From there he found the native area and then hit into another bunker, leading to his 5.
“I made some bad bogeys,” Johnson said. “But coulda, shoulda, woulda — go out and do it tomorrow.”
That’s the spirit, Dustin. The B Flight title beckons…