BOZICH | You won't believe who's in the PGA Championship final group
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Fifteen minutes before I started writing this column I did not know one thing about Bernd Wiesberger -- not even how to correctly pronounce his name.
“The r is more like a silent a,” Wiesberger said.
But if the a is silent, why would you pronounce it? I'm still confused, but I believe you say, Bernt Vees-ber-ger.
Now I know that other than Valhalla Golf Course, the only thing Wiesberger has seen in Louisville since arriving from Vienna (Austria) last Saturday is Ruth's Chris Steak House atop Kaden Tower and his hotel. He hasn't even made the obligatory trips to Churchill Downs or the Muhammad Ali Center.
“I wanted to, but I just haven't had time,” he said.
Wiesberger, 28, started the week with a three-person cheering section – his mother, father and girlfriend after making the 18-hour trip through Washington D.C. On Sunday a healthy chunk of the gallery will be roaring every time Wiesberger complete his follow through.
How will Louisvillians be pronouncing his name?
“I'm not going to say those because then I'll have them all the time tomorrow,” Wiesberger said, before laughing. “Let's be creative.”
Here's why Bernd will be surrounded by noise: Wiesberger will play in the final group with Rory McIlroy, just ahead of Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson.
Wiesberger delivered a 6-under 65 on a soggy Saturday to follow up his back-to-back 68s. That lifted him to 12-under, one stroke behind McIlroy, but one ahead of Fowler and two in front of Mickelson.
Let me say that again: McIlroy, Fowler, Mickelson, Wiesberger.
Let's call the roll: That's the No. 1 player in the world (McIlroy), the only guy to finish in the top five in all three major championships this year (Fowler), a guy trying to win his sixth major (Mickelson) and guess who?
“Yeah, we're not too many Austrians on tour,” Wiesberger said.
If you tell me that you had Wiesberger in your PGA Championship office pool, I need documentation. Even Wiesberger could not have picked Wiesberger to win.
Played the 2014 British Open. Shot a sizzling 79 in the second round. Missed the cut at 7-over. Played the 2014 U.S. Open. Missed the cut at 10-over. Played the 2013 PGA. Missed the cut at 5-over. Played the 2012 PGA. Do I have to tell you what happened?
“I've not been in contention in a major championship, so I don't know how it's going to turn out,” Wiesberger said.
How it turned out for Wiesberger on Saturday was spectacular. He played with Phil Mickelson, who, along with Ernie Els, happens to be one of the players who inspired Wiesberger to obsess about golf more than skiing.
He grew up in Oberwart, about 90 minutes southeast of Vienna, where the average rainfall every June and July is 14 inches per month. Maybe that explains why he played so well in these conditions. He said his father introduced him to the game after a large sporting goods store and then a golf course opened near his house.
Wiesberger started swinging a club when he was 3. He got more serious about the game when he was 8. He started playing in national events when he was 13 and won the Austrian Youth championships in 2004 and 2005.
And, of course, he almost ruined his career enjoying a sport where many Austrians excel – skiing.
“I broke my collarbone (in 2003), just goofing around and not being too cautious with what we were doing,” Wiesberger said.
“That kind of made me slow down. I'm still skiing. I like to ski. I don't have much time because we have quite a tight schedule but it made me a bit more aware that I have to look around to not hurt myself because skiing is not vacation or fun, but my body needs to be fit for golf.”
McIlroy was asked if he knew more about Wiesberger than 99.7 percent of the folks in the PGA media room.
“I haven't played much (with him),” he said. “I can't recall. I might have played with him on the European Tour at some point over the past few years.
“A very solid player. He's one of the modern day sort of guys – he's big, he's athletic, he hits the ball a long way, makes a really good move at it.”
A good enough move to win the PGA Championship?
“I'm just trying to enjoy it as I did today, Wiesberger said. “From now on, it's just a bonus, really.”
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