ST. LOUIS – The most decorated Olympian in history didn’t go unnoticed at the PGA Championship on Sunday, even if he took many of the fans in attendance by surprise.
Golf fan and 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was part of a large contingent that followed Tiger Woods around as Woods began his fourth round at Bellerive. Dressed in an Under Armour polo, aviator sunglasses and a navy blue hat, Phelps wasn’t in the environment where he’s most recognized. That’s why a look of surprise flashed over dozens of fans’ faces when they realized who was walking right in front of them.
Phelps said Sunday’s round was the first time he got a chance to trail Woods on the course. As he flew into St. Louis on Saturday night he was riveted to the third round television coverage as Woods tried to make a move up the leaderboard.
“Nothing against [leader Brooks Koepka], obviously he’s playing lights out. It’s almost like you don’t want someone to run away with it, right?” Phelps told Yahoo Sports. “We were rooting on the plane to try to keep it close so we could have a good leaderboard and this leaderboard, the last major of the year, you can’t really ask for anything else. This is perfect.”
“You have a studded field with ‘Ger in the mix, making a run on Sunday.”
Phelps, 33, initially retired from swimming after the 2012 Summer Olympics. But he returned to the sport in 2014 and won five gold medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics. As Woods is still nine months into his return to golf after an 11-month layoff because of back issues, Phelps said he could see parallels from what he had to re-learn when he came back from his first retirement.
“You know how to do it, right? We both know how to do it,” Phelps said. “We’ve been at that level for an extended period of time. You kind of know what to do in this environment but it’s hard to find it. For me, I knew how to swim, I knew how to do the strokes and turns but it’s getting my hip rotation — it’s getting all those fine details just ironed out. And it’s going take time when you step away from any sport. The fact that he’s able to be where he is now with where the game is today and it’s — it just makes the game so much better. Having him in the mix is truly incredible.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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