SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (USA) — One of Matt Kuchar’s shots landed on a service road and another in a thick upslope of rough.
But he’s still in the lead at the PGA Championship.
Round two remains yet to be finished, thanks to fog that disrupted play again Friday at Whistling Straits. Kuchar, however, was one of the lucky ones who managed to get his work done and stood at 8-under 136 – good enough for a one-stroke lead over Nick Watney.
To friends and family, Kuchar is known simply as “Kuch.” He’s remembered by many golf fans as the wide-eyed amateur who a dozen years ago smiled his way around Augusta National and Olympic Club.
Kuchar’s rise to stardom hasn’t been the linear ascension that was expected after he won the 1997 U.S. Amateur, then played well at the following year’s Masters (T-21) and U.S. Open (T-14). But he’s back in the spotlight now.
“When I first came out, some guys talked to me about this 10-year learning curve out here on the PGA Tour,” said Kuchar, a two-time Tour winner.“I don’t know if I bought into it at the time. . . There may be something to it.”
Bryce Molder – Kuchar’s former teammate at Georgia Tech – isn’t far off Kuchar’s pace. Molder fired 72-67 and is three behind Kuchar. He saw Kuchar’s good play coming. They played 27 holes of practice this week, during which Kuchar made 13 birdies.
“I am never surprised by anything he does,” said Molder, whose lone win came on the Nationwide Tour. “I have known him long enough that when he holed out at 13 – he was playing behind me – I told the guys in my group if it was anybody else I wouldn’t believe it, but it’s Matt.”
Also at 5-under are Jason Dufner, who carded a 66, 19-year-old Seung-yul Noh (71), Dustin Johnson (68), Simon Khan (70), Rory McIlroy (68) and 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson (70).
Phil Mickelson, who has yet another opportunity to take the world No. 1 ranking from Tiger Woods, had the makings of a great day with six birdies. But it was undercut by a double-bogey at 18 and another bogey, and he’s at 2 under for the tournament along with Ernie Els.
“This is a penalizing golf course to not play from the fairway,” Mickelson said. “And I certainly explored a lot of areas here.”
Half the field didn’t finish the second round and some players didn’t get past the fourth hole. Play will resume early Saturday.
Woods finished six holes, and only the first one was routine.
Among his many adventures to save pars: He drilled a shot off a cart path; out of grass up to his knees; and from a grassy knoll that made it tough for him to keep his balance. After the siren sounded to suspend play, Woods opted to finish the sixth hole. He chipped out of deep grass below the green and left himself a 5-foot birdie putt that spun 270 degrees around the cup and sent him home somber.
Six holes, six pars. He remained at 1 under.
“Had to hang in there, and did a good job with that,” Woods said.
Just like the first two days, Saturday is going to be another marathon.
Sean Martin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.