5 Things: Tiger struggles; Dufner's new irons
Friday, August 9, 2013
PITTSFORD, N.Y. Jason Dufner was about a foot shy of establishing an all-time low for a round in one of golf's four majors, settling for a 63 to tie that record and take a two-shot lead at the PGA Championship. Tiger Woods didn't fare nearly as well, nor did Phil Mickelson.
Here are 5 Things to Know about Friday's second round at Oak Hill.
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1. TIGER MUDDLES THROUGH: Tiger Woods shot his lowest competitive round at Oak Hill’s East Course on Friday, but understandably, there was little joy after he posted his level-par 70. He’s at 1-over 141 through two rounds, and was highly frustrated with the effort.
Warm weather, soft greens and gentle winds left the East Course as vulnerable as players ever will find it – Jason Dufner (7-under 63) had a birdie putt to set the all-time major championship scoring mark, and earlier in the day, Webb Simpson shot 64 – yet Woods simply did not take advantage.
Woods had to scramble early in his round just to hover around par, then got into red numbers with birdies at Nos. 5 and 6. But on the back nine, when he had a chance to pick up some momentum, he failed to capitalize. After missing a short, sliding birdie putt at the par-5 13th, he drove the green at the 323-yard 14th hole and promptly three-putted. He birdied 15, then had a good look from 20 feet for birdie at 16 – and three-putted.
“I didn't hit it anywhere near as good as I did yesterday,” he said. “Consequently, I didn't have that many looks. When I did, I missed my share, too.”
Woods will start the weekend 10 shots back. The biggest gap he’s ever made up on the weekend to capture a major was six shots at the 2005 Masters. This time, though, there are 37 players ahead of him.
“I'm going to have do my job and shoot a good round,” he said. “But also, then again, I'm so far back that if the leaders go ahead and run off with it and shoot a low one tomorrow, I'm going to be pretty far behind.”
And his winless streak at the majors will have reached 18.
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2. DUFNER'S NEW STICKS: Jason Dufner broke the tournament course record and tied the all-time low score (63) at a major championship at Oak Hill on Friday using a set of Titleist's new 714 AP2 irons that he switched to last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Dufner said he wasn't nervous about switching to new equipment the week before a major championship because he had done a lot of testing with the clubs in the weeks prior.
"I worked with them at Firestone early in the week when Titleist was there," he said Friday at Oak Hill. "I did a lot of testing on Trackman and played a lot of practice rounds with them. They are very similar, if not better than, what I was using before."
Dufner had been playing the previous version of the Titleist AP2, the 712 Series, which was released two years ago. The new clubs have the same Project X PXI 6.5 shafts, along with the same lofts and lit angles his other set had.
"For me, the new clubs go through the ground a little bit easier," he said. "They've improved the sole a little bit which makes them work through the turf a little better for me, which leads to better strikes with the golf ball."
Dufner said that his swing coach, Chuck Cook, has helped him to understand the key numbers that Trackman can provide, and that while he's open to changing clubs, he knows when the numbers he sees showing spin rate, launch angle and descent angle aren't ideal for him.
"If the clubs don't fit, I put them down," he said. "I can't be giving up anything with my equipment."
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3. SNEAKING UP: The guests at his table during Tuesday night’s Champions Dinner at Oak Hill were quite surprised to learn that Martin Kaymer is only 28 years old. Many tend to forget that Kaymer, from Germany, was only 24 when he won his PGA in a playoff against Bubba Watson at Whistling Straits in 2010. (Yes, that was the Dustin Johnson/Bunkergate PGA.)
Kaymer was quite steady at the PGA on Friday, posting two birdies and 16 pars for a second consecutive 68. He is tied for ninth and very much in contention heading to the weekend.
Quietly, Kaymer has been showing some form, posting three finishes inside the top 13 in his last four worldwide starts. His T-5 at the Byron Nelson was his first top 10 on the PGA Tour since his PGA triumph. Now ranked 35th in the world, he certainly doesn’t seem to miss the bright spotlight of being No. 1, a perch to which he ascended in spring of 2011.
“To be honest with you, it was a surprise when I became No. 1,” Kaymer said. “I was not playing like the best player on the planet. I didn’t feel like the best player. And therefore I needed to change a few things.
“Obviously, I dropped down in the world rankings, but I didn’t car about that. It was about the feeling you have. If other people see you as No. 1, but you don’t see yourself as No. 1, how can you play like No. 1? That’s not possible. Therefore, I became a better player.”
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4. LEFTY'S WOES: Count Phil Mickelson, the newly minted Open champion, as one of those players miffed at his game after two rounds across Oak Hill’s East track.
He thought he’d figured some things out working into near-darkness Thursday night with instructor Butch Harmon on the practice tee. His game did feel a little better Friday, but his score stayed the same. He shot his second consecutive 71.
“All my draw shots were good,” he said. ”Where I struggled today was trying to fade the ball. All the left pins that I was trying to cut the ball into the pin, I just didn't get close. I was 40, 50 feet. So that was the biggest thing.”
His thoughts heading into Saturday?
“I think that somebody tomorrow is going to go out and shoot a low round,” Mickelson said. “It's out there. I think it's difficult when you are up near the lead and you are being forced to make birdies and pressed. I think that there is room and opportunity for guys to come from behind and get right in the mix.”
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5. MAKING THE WEEKEND: The cut at the 36-hole mark fell at 3-over 143, leaving 75 players to compete on the weekend. Those that won’t be around include 12 of the top 50 players in the world. Luke Donald (5-over 145) was the only player in the top 10 to miss the cut, the Englishman’s second consecutive missed cut in a major.
South Africans Charl Schwartzel and Ernie Els, Nos. 14 and 15, missed the cut. Schwartzel had been 2 over through 16 holes, inside the cut line, but bogeyed the final two to shoot 73 and finish 4 over.
Bubba Watson, Brendan Grace, Nick Watney, Richard Sterne, Billy Horschel, Nicolas Colsaerts, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Carl Pettersson and Martin Laird round out those in the top 50 that missed the cut.
Three others in the top 50 withdrew: Bo Van Pelt (hip), Angel Cabrera (left wrist) and Jamie Donaldson (back).
There are 13 players who made the cut in all four majors this season: K.J. Choi, Jason Day, Jason Dufner, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods.
Dufner, Scott and Woods have made all four cuts in the majors for two straight seasons. Scott owns the longest streak, having made the cut in 10 consecutive major championships.
Steve Stricker hasn't missed a cut in a major since the 2009 PGA Championship, but his run of 15 isn't consecutive since he skipped last month's Open Championship.
Snedeker and Westwood are the only players who have a chance to finish top 20 in all four majors. Snedeker, however, will have to come up with a blazing weekend; he's presently tied for 60th at 3 over.
The scoring average through two rounds is 72.20. In 2003, when the PGA Championship was last at Oak Hill, the cumulative scoring average for the four rounds was 74.31.
– David Dusek, Jim McCabe and Alex Miceli contributed