Notes: Players take advantage of fog delay
PGA Championship (Round 1)
After a 3-hour fog delay, play finally got under way at the PGA Championship.
SHEBOYGAN, Wisc. – He might be young and full of energy, but Rickie Fowler wasn’t about to let nap time escape him. So he stretched out on his back, on the floor, and dozed off.
OK, so it was 8 a.m. and he had just had some breakfast. He was tired and he’d been up since about 4:30 a.m., planning for a 7:10 tee time. But when a heavy fog enveloped Whistling Straits, Fowler and the other early starters had a long wait – 3 hours 10 minutes, to be exact.
“It was kind of rough, but we’ll get a good night’s sleep tonight,” said Fowler, who shot 73 in his PGA Championship debut.
Bo Van Pelt was in the first group off the first tee, paired with Vaughn Taylor and Scott Hebert. But their 7 a.m. start turned into 10:10, and even then the players had questions as to whether it was a smart decision.
“It was kind of a mess,” Taylor said. “When I was on the first tee the fog blew in and I couldn’t see the fairway. But I hit anyway.”
At the third, a 201-yard par 3, none of the players felt they could see the green that well. Still, they hit – and actually each hit a nice shot.
“I guess the good news is, we couldn’t see the trouble,” Taylor said, laughing.
They then called over an official, who agreed that it was unplayable. This time, however, the delay was for just six minutes.
“It was a long day today,” said Van Pelt, who stuffed a 6 iron to 8 feet and birdied the 18th to shoot 73, “and it will be a long day tomorrow. But it evens out.”
Because of the fog delays, the players in the last groups didn’t go out until 5:25 p.m. local time.
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Stepping in, moving up: So far as pinch-hitting duties go, the leader in the clubhouse is caddie Mark Carens. With his regular boss, James Driscoll, not qualified for the PGA, Carens answered the call from Bubba Watson – and he finds himself in a share of the lead.
“It was set up last week,” Carens said. “I owe it all to him.”
Carens, like Driscoll a native of the Boston area, pointed to Watson’s trainer, Andrew Fischer. He’s the one who arranged for Carens to fill in for Ted Scott, Watson’s regular caddie who is home with his wife after the couple had a baby.
As rounds of golf go, Carens had a front-row seat to great entertainment, because not only did Watson go to exteme lengths to shoot 68, so, too, did playing competitor Alvaro Quiros (74).
Perhaps Watson’s most impressive drive, Carens said, came at the 621-yard, par-5 11th. Even though he was in a fairway bunker, “he only had about 210 left.” At the 527-yard, par-5 15th, which played into the wind and saw most players hit driver, fairway wood, Watson pounded driver, 5-iron.
Even better, he accompanied all that power with pretty good accuracy, hitting nine of 14 fairways and 12 greens.
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Long, and not much short, of it: There’s serious length here at Whistling Straits – 7,522 yards, to be exactly. Good chunks of it are at the beefy par 4s, Nos. 4 (493) and 15 (527), which players approach with great caution.
“They’re both par 4 1/2s,” Steve Elkington said. “So, everyone is 1 over walking out of the gate.”
That’s why the Aussie felt he made two birdies, having made par at each hole. Of course, it required a driver and 3-wood to reach each green, but it’s the nature of the course, he said.
As for shooting 1 under 71, the 1995 PGA Championship winner shrugged his shoulders.
“I’m always hanging around the PGA,” he said.
He’s got a point – sort of. Though he’s had a series of missed-cuts, withdrawals, and lackluster finishes, Elkington does have two thirds and a second since that win at Riviera 15 years ago.
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Foreign affairs going well: It’s a source of great pride that he’s played in all four majors this year and six straight. That’s because Thongchai Jaidee feels as if he’s always teeing it up to represent Thailand.
“It’s very important for me to make the cut, to do that for Thailand,” Jaidee said.
He took a serious step in that mission when he birdied the 494-yard, par-4 18th to shoot 70 and get into a share of ninth.
Jaidee had one of two bogey-free rounds in the morning wave of 78 players. The other belonged to Ryan Palmer (71), who has suddeny caught fire after a rough stretch.
“He’s driving it the best I have ever seen since I’ve been with him,” Palmer’s caddie James Edmondson said.
Having missed the cut in 11 of 13 starts, Palmer finished T-24 in Canada, then shot 70-68-63-69 to finish second at last week’s Bridgestone Invitational.
With 17 pars and one birdie, he’s got himself off to another good start this week.
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In closing: In eight previous rounds in the PGA, Watson had never shot better than 73. ... Of the morning starters, only Martin Kaymer made eagle at the 621-yard, par 5 11th. ... 21 of the 78 starters in the morning broke par. ... Palmer and Michael Sim almost had to run out of the scoring area when a fire alarm went off. Both were blocking their ears from the shrill, though officials quickly silenced the alarm. ... It was a good day for the Molinari brothers as Franceso shot 68, Edoardo 71. They would have combined for a best-ball 64. ... Out late in the afternoon, Matt Kuchar holed out for eagle at the 402-yard, par-4 13th. ... Anthony Kim ran off 12 straight pars, but made three bogeys in his last six holes and opened with 74. ... Having already announced that he’ll shut down his game for a healthy stretch after this major, Sergio Garcia appeared headed for an even earlier vacation. His round of 78 beat just five players in the morning wave, three of them club pros, the others being Mark Brooks and Pavin.