KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – And with your morning coffee, perhaps some catch-up with what went on late Friday in an unforgettable second round at the 94th PGA Championship.
Unforgettable in a less-than-favorable manner, that is, because smiles were few and far between as players trudged in to sign their cards. For good reason, too. The field average was a 78.10, smashing itself into the record books. It was the highest field average for a PGA Championship, nearly a shot-and-a-half higher than the previous mark – 76.8 for Round 1 in 1958 at Llanerch CC in Haverton, Pa.
How brutally tough did the Ocean Course at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort play? Consider that there were more rounds in the 90s (two) than the 60s (one). Or that a player (Alex Noren) shot 80 and not only made the cut, but was tied for 38th? Or that 41 players shot in the 80s? Or that Phil Mickelson hurdled a whopping 55 players – by merely shooting 1 under?
“It wasn’t stress-free, I can tell you that,” said Padraig Harrington, easily the most diplomatic player you’ll come across, so you can sort of gauge what others might have said about the day.
Of course, given the difficulty, it was a “day” of golf that stretched even before nightfall and it’s here where we’ll pick up the action. The final group had reached the 18th tee (and for emphasis, this pairing had teed off at 2:50 and it was now 8:15, so you do the math) and the decision was theirs – play on or not.
Joost Luiten, having bogeyed the 16th and barely seen the line to his putt at 17, was 1 over, in contention, and wisely said thanks, but no thanks. To the man from The Netherlands, it was an easy decision – he hadn’t been able to follow the flight of drives hit by playing competitors Alan Morin and Thomas Aiken.
“I had too much to lose,” Luiten said. “Why not come out early and start fresh?”
Oh, if only Aiken had followed that thinking, the South African may have snuck in under the cut.
Having birdied 16 and 17, Aiken was 7 over. He said he asked, but no one could provide a definitive answer, except to say that it appeared as if 6 over would make the cut. (By then, it was for sure that 6 over would make the cut.) Anyway, Aiken surveyed the situation, convinced himself that it was a helping wind out of the right, and it was best to stay on a roll.
He gambled, but when he didn’t make birdie, he was 7 over, on the outside looking in. That news perhaps won’t be helped at all by hearing that Luiten, refreshed from a good night’s sleep, stepped to the 18th tee Saturday at 7:30 a.m. with the sun shining, the wind down, and a freshly-cut green softened by yet another furious evening thunderstorm.
Driver, 6 iron to 25 feet, one putt, birdie – and just like that, the personable Luiten was level for the championship, joint 11th, and just four back.
Hard to imagine that Aiken isn’t questioning his decision, though perhaps no one had a rougher night’s sleep than Michael Hoey. The man from Northern Ireland has ties to the area, thanks to his collegiate days at Clemson, and when he signed for what was reported to be the second-best score of Round 2 – a 70 – to make the cut at 6 over, it seemed like a sweet homecoming of sorts.
Only Hoey kept thinking about something that had happened at the eighth hole. His ball was embedded in one of the 13,674 “sandy areas,” and Hoey did as knew he was permitted to do: He brushed sand away to identify his ball. Confirmed, Hoey played the shot and continued on for 10 more holes. No worries, at least until he went back over the play and studied the wording of the local rule. Hoey called in to PGA of America rules officials, discussed the details of what he had done, and it was deemed that he was in violation. After identifying his ball, Hoey had not “re-created” the situation because he had not put a little sand back on the ball.
Because he had not assessed himself in a two-stroke penalty, Hoey was disqualified and the official record books were adjusted: There were just four sub-par rounds Friday, not five.
Crazy, stuff, and for further proof, consider some of the oddities that took place Friday:
• Miguel Angel Jimenez made a quadruple-bogey, sprinked in five other bogeys, shot 77 – and easily made the cut.
• Louis Oosthuizen didn’t have anything better than a 4 on his scorecard (he bogeyed each of the par 3s), shot 79, and got to play the weekend.
• Y.E. Yang made just one birdie – and jumped from T-66 to T-25.
• Ryo Ishikawa played the back nine in 42, yet remained in contention.
• Sang-Moon Bae failed to make a par on his outward nine – he had three birdies, five bogeys, and one double – yet made the cut with a round of 78.