KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -– Well, that was the Ocean Course we were hoping to see. The wind kicked up and Pete Dye’s devilish design got the best of the field at the year’s final major. Here’s 5 Things you need to know from a brutal second round at the PGA Championship.
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1. BLOWN AWAY: One day after calm conditions made this major championship play more like the John Deere Classic, winds of approximately 30 mph blew across the Ocean Course and wreaked havoc on players. The course played to a 78.1 scoring average Friday, nearly five shots higher than the previous day. Twenty-four players shot in the 60s, and 44 were under par, after the first round round. There are now just 10 players in red figures, and only one player, Vijay Singh, shot in the 60s Friday. One player, Joost Luiten, failed to finish his second round Friday.
Carl Pettersson (74), Tiger Woods (71) and Singh (69) are your co-leaders at Kiawah Island. They’re tied at 4-under 140. Ian Poulter (71) is one shot off the lead, while Rory McIlroy (75) and Jamie Donaldson (73) are another shot back.
“It’s just a brutal test,” Donaldson said. “It was a very, very difficult day of golf.”
Kiawah Island’s elevated greens kept players and “sticky” paspalum grass fairways don’t allow players to hit low approach shots that stay below the wind, so players had to hit high approach shots and hope their balls would act as expected in the wind. Some players said they had to aim 40 yards left or right and hope the wind would guide their ball back toward their target. “With this wind and the way it’s blowing and the way it’s moving the golf ball, it’s tough,” Woods said.
Defending PGA champion Keegan Bradley said Friday’s round was, “without a doubt the hardest I’ve ever played in my life. There’s not one shot that’s easy.” He shot 77 after a first-round 68 and is T-15 at 1 over.
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2. SWEET SONG: Vijay’s Singh’s 69 was the only sub-70 round Friday. Singh played in the morning half of the draw, when the scoring average was 77.4. He was 8.5 strokes better than the average. “These conditions here where you don’t have an option to go on the ground, you have to keep it through the air, plays right to his strength,” said fellow Hall-of-Famer Phil Mickelson. “He hits the ball extremely solid and penetrates right through the air and he’s done that his whole career.
“Sometimes you might go through hills and valleys, but you don’t ever forget how to hit those shots and win.”
Singh, 49, is seeking his first victory since 2008, when he won three times. He would be the oldest winner in major championship history if he were to hold on for two more rounds. Julius Boros was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship. Singh arrived at the PGA having finished in the top-10 in his past two starts, at the Open Championship and RBC Canadian Open. He credited his improvement to a more positive attitude. “I just started believing that I can do it,” Singh said. “My head is in a better spot. I’m more focused and believing that I can do it has helped me a lot.”
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3. RIVALRY RESUMED: Having Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods tied atop the leaderboard resumes a rivalry from a previous decade. These players used to swap the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking and were the FedEx Cup’s first champions.
Woods (69-71) is one of three players to open this year’s PGA with two sub-par scores. Singh (71-69) and Ian Poulter (70-71) are the others. Who knows which Woods we will see Saturday, though. Remember, he was tied for the lead halfway through this year’s U.S. Open before shooting 75-73 on the weekend. He also was in contention after opening this year’s Open Championship with scores of 67-67 before shooting 70-73 on the weekend to finish four shots back.
Woods’ scoring average in this year’s first three majors is 70.0. He’s averaging 72.8 strokes per round on the weekend of the majors, though. “I’m right there with a chance and that’s, … I like that,” Woods said. “I’m playing better to where I’m going to give myself chances in major championships. I’m right there.”
Let’s not forget Carl Pettersson, though. He’s a five-time PGA Tour winner whose last victory also came in South Carolina, at this year’s RBC Heritage. He’ll play with Poulter in Saturday’s second-to-last group.
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4. A CUT BELOW: Friday’s conditions got the better of many players. Two club pros shot in the 90s, while scores in the mid-80s weren’t uncommon.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano’s 78 was 11 shots higher than his opening round. Alex Noren, who shot a first-round 67, played his final five holes Friday in 1 under … to shoot 80. Justin Rose went 69-79. Graeme McDowell, who seems to embrace tougher conditions, followed his first-round 68 with a 76.
“I’m trying to think of the last time I remember a golf course playing this difficult,” McDowell said, “because it’s a links wind, blowing across a golf course which is super soft, with some of the most difficult pins on the course out there.
The cut fell at 6-over 150. Sergio Garcia (76-75), Webb Simpson (79-72), Davis Love III (72-79), Hunter Mahan (72-80), Lee Westwood (75-77), Jason Day (72-80), Matteo Manassero (71-82), Rickie Fowler (74-80), Matt Kuchar (72-82), Kyle Stanley (80-78) and Martin Kaymer (79-79) were among the notables to miss the cut.
None of the 20 PGA of America members in the field made the cut.
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5. RYDER CUP RACE: The top eight in the United States’ Ryder Cup standings at week’s end will earn spots on the team. Phil Mickelson currently ranks eighth in the standings. He greatly helped his chances of earning an automatic spot with 71 Friday, which moved him up 55 spots on the leaderboard into a tie for 11th. He’s four shots off the lead.
Hunter Mahan, No. 9 in the Ryder Cup standings, missed the cut after a second-round 80, as did No. 12 Rickie Fowler. No. 13 Brandt Snedeker also missed the cut.
Steve Stricker, who’s 10th in the Ryder Cup rankings, is T-37 after shooting 74-73. No. 11 Jim Furyk is T-57 with rounds of 72-77. Stricker needs to earn $300,000 more than Mickelson this week to pass him. Furyk needs to earn $422,500 to pass Mickelson. Doing so seems unlikely.