CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Chris Stroud has a vision board in his gymnasium back home in Houston. It is a collage of photos of cars and boats and him holding trophies. Does it include the Wanamaker Trophy, the silver behemoth to be awarded to the winner of the 99th PGA Championship, he was asked?
“It does,” he said. “I took Davis Love in whatever year he won  and cut his head out, because he looks kind of the same as me and put my face in and it’s on there.”
Stroud, who signed for an even-par 71 in Saturday's third round at Quail Hollow Club, trails 54-hole leader Kevin Kisner by one stroke and will play alongside him in today’s final twosome (scores: http://bit.ly/1j3khNH); tee times: http://bit.ly/1yf8r8M). Could his vision come to fruition?
“I’ve dreamed about this for years,” said Stroud, who was tabbed Mr. Positivity by friends at Lamar University.
And yet for all of his positive thinking, Stroud had endured 10-plus winless seasons on the PGA Tour. It wasn't until his 290th start, at last week’s Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nev., that he finally was crowned a champion – after a three-hole playoff, no less – and hoisted a trophy. Here's the rub: Stroud didn't win and receive 1,400 text messages, 55 voicemails and another 100 emails – all of which he said he answered – until he accepted that he might never have his day in the sun.
“Since I surrendered to that, it’s like all of a sudden things got – the weight is off my shoulders,” he said. “Last week just gave me an unbelievable sense of calm. I’ve never felt so relaxed on the golf course, and I think it’s a lot of the reason why I’m playing so well.”
Stroud, 35, counts several mentors, including World Golf Hall of Famer Jackie Burke, who told Stroud’s caddie, Casey Clendenon, “You’ve got to go play tournaments and let the tournament come to you.”
So, Stroud isn’t fretting over the fact that he bogeyed his final two holes Saturday. He didn’t rush off to the putting green to smooth out his stroke. That’s because he’s also adopting the sage advice of Crash Davis, the minor-league baseball catcher played by Kevin Costner in the movie “Bull Durham.”
“You know, just don’t change anything. Don't mess up the streak,” he said. “I’m having the same everything I had last week.”
So, the last man to qualify for the PGA Championship last Sunday, the guy ranked No. 203 in the world, who ran out of clean clothing because he wasn't expecting to be here, and took his parents to a celebratory dinner on Wednesday, is one more great round from etching his name onto the Wanamaker Trophy. Then there will be no need for a Davis Love cutout anymore.
“You know, I’ve been waiting on this a long time,” he said. “I didn’t think it was going to take me this long, but I'm glad I’m here.”
Adam Schupak has written about golf since 1997 for the likes of Golfweek, Golf World and The New York Times. He is the author of Deane Beman: Golf's Driving Force. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @adamschupak