Babineau: Kiawah rears its ugly head on Friday

Keegan Bradley hits off the sixth tee during Round 2 of the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course.

Keegan Bradley hits off the sixth tee during Round 2 of the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course.

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Avondale, LA - TPC Louisiana

4:42:08 AM ET. 04/25/2014




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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. - Well, that was fun, wasn’t it, our little day at the Ocean Course? For an encore at the 94th PGA Championship, we’re going to ask Pete Dye to saw a bearded lady in half, and if you really want to stick around, a 12-inch nail up the right nostril will follow.

Circus-like stuff? You bet. Friday at Kiawah was the day good rounds went to die, and golf began to resemble something more akin to Olympic men’s field hockey. As some forceful winds whipped off the Atlantic, Round 2 at the PGA became an exercise straight out of some old “James Bond” picture, with guys taking turns clinging to a tiny branch on the side of the cliff as the villain delivered hammer blows across the knuckles.

Kiawah Island was Killjoy Island on Friday, when the winds gusted upward of 30 mph. Birdies were as rare as mint Honus Wagner baseball cards and pars were a man’s best friend. There seemed no tougher stretch than the nine holes beginning at the par-3 fifth, which played into the teeth of the wind, followed by eight consecutive holes that played into a hard left-to-right crosswind. Consider it Kiawah’s devious, pull-the-wings-off-a-fly version of Murderer’s Row.

“I think that stretch is as hard a stretch of golf as there is in the world, I would think,” said defending champion Keegan Bradley. “I felt like I was hanging on the entire day.”

He was, and he did. Bradley was 4 under for the tournament when he stepped to the fifth tee Friday. By the time he walked off No. 13, he’d given all his strokes back. He’d shoot 77, and frankly, seem pretty fine with it.

“In a weird way,” he said, “I feel relieved.”

At 1-over 145, Bradley not only made the cut, he’s still very much in contention, only five shots off the lead. And what did he think of fellow competitor Tiger Woods' round of 1-under 71, which included a three-putt at the final green? Might have been the best round of golf he’s ever witnessed, Bradley said. Ever. Anyplace.

Gary Woodland was winning the golf tournament by the time he got to the fifth tee, standing at 6 under, and held steady until the par-3 eighth, where he missed the green right, stumbled, missed a short bogey putt and made double. From there, his world would turn upside down; it was hard to get things going in a different direction. Woodland went from leading to needing to play solidly down the homestretch just to stick around for the weekend. He went 7 over in a six-hole span across Kiawah’s iron-tough middle stretch, struggling to find his way in the wind. He came up short with approaches at 9 and 10 and thought he’d make an adjustment at the par-4 13th after he’d hit a good drive. From 200 yards, the long-hitting Woodland took out one extra club, a 5-iron, carried the ball 5 yards past the pin and watched it roll off into a hazard.

“Just frustrating,” Woodland said. “Once you got to (hole No.) 6, it’s all you’d want in a golf course. I just misjudged the wind all day. . . . I was just trying to get through 13. The wind was off the left, and I was just trying to hang in there. That’s one one of the toughest rounds we’ve played all year.”

Joost Luiten still has the 18th hole to play Saturday morning to officially complete the PGA Championship’s second round, but the average score was 78.1, which is higher than any round from this year’s U.S. Open at Olympic Club, a stern test in itself.

The cut will fall at 6 over, and there were more scores in the 90s on Friday (two) than in the 60s (one, Vijay Singh). Somewhere, we are pretty sure, Pete Dye was in front of a television set, grinning broadly.

Four of the course’s toughest six holes resided in that stretch from 5 to 13, including both the toughest (the par-4 13th) and second toughest (par-4 ninth). Heck, even the two par-5 holes in that span exacted their pound of flesh, with Dustin Johnson making triple bogey at the seventh.

“I missed the putt for 7,” he said, “and that equals 8.”

Johnson was told by reporters that 6 over, which is where he stood after rounds of 71-79, likely was going to be good enough to make the cut and play two more rounds. Would that a good or bad thing? he was asked.

Johnson smiled. “I decline to comment,” he said.

Good thing his math was good, for the numbers out there across Kiawah seemed to be getting pretty out of hand. At the 494-yard ninth, where even big drives left long second shots in, there were only four birdies on the day compared with 63 bogeys and seven doubles. There were no fewer than five “others” on the seventh, 10th and 11th holes. Former PGA champion David Toms hit 3-wood second shots into four consecutive par-4 holes and did not get to the green with any of them.

For a tranquil little game, this thing we call golf, Friday marked a bloodbath. Hunter Mahan, Jason Day, Angel Cabrera, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney were among a group of players who did not even break 80. We repeat: They Did Not Break 80.

Watching Woodland as he struggled through his 79, former LPGA standout Michelle McGann, who has been seeing Kiawah Island for the first time this week, was asked if the Ocean Course’s sheer beauty made her long to play the place.

“Definitely,” she said. And then she paused. “Just not today.”

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