Away We Go in PGA Championship

By: Marino Parascenzo


[Editor's Note: Cybergolf's Jay Flemma and Marino Parascenzo are in Rochester, N.Y., for this week's PGA Championship. Here's Marino's first installment.]

Jim Furyk, the guy with the funniest swing - and unfunniest stories in the game - was looking really great for a while in the first round of the 95th PGA Championship.

Then Adam Scott caught fire, and the chase was on. At the end of Thursday, the two are tied for the lead at 5-under-par 65.

And then there was Tiger Woods, with his standard "I'm right there" declaration in another major. That was after the double-bogey on his final hole.

If anyone thought that was the start of his problems, they should have been at Monday's practice round.

In that session, Woods hit his first tee shot wide right. He reloaded, then hit that wide right also. At the next hole, he hit a house, on the right. It was observed he didn't bother teeing off after that.

Woods, a four-time PGA champ, had gotten to 2-under with birdies on his first nine (he started at the 10th), then bogeyed his 14th (the par-4 No. 5) and caught trouble at his final hole, the 452-yard, par-4 ninth. He drove into the right rough, and his attempt to cut around an overhanging branch brought him down in thick rough right of the green. He chunked his pitch a few yards into a bunker - up against the front face and, under the circumstances, blasted out beautifully to 12 feet, but two-putted for a double-bogey six and a 1-over 71, leaving him six off the lead.

"I played really well today," said Woods, winner of five tournaments this year, including that runaway in the Bridgestone Invitational last week. "The round realistically could have been under par, easily. I'm still right there . . . and we have a long way to go."

So this major was off to a proper start, with scrambling and scampering, joy and gloom, and Phil Mickelson the embodiment of them all, shooting a wild and characteristic 1-over 71. He was 3-over in a hurry, with a bogey at No. 3 and a double at No. 5, and he would close with another double at the 18th. In between, he scattered four birdies after a rain delay cooled him off. He finished things with the double at the 18th and headed right for the practice tee.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy, the mysteriously afflicted former whiz kid, was in a huge group at 69, and a ragged 69 it was - five birdies and four bogeys, not the guy who blistered the field by eight shots last year. He's spent this year trying to find that touch, and is still looking.

"Today was definitely positive," McIlroy said. "I felt like I played really, really well."

Furyk, the guy with many a broken heart, nursed that loopy swing around tree-lined, doglegged Oak Hill for six birdies and a closing bogey for a 5-under-par 65 and the early lead. It was his best start by three shots in 18 PGAs, none of which he's won. His outlook was not dimmed.

"I'm pleased with the round," Furyk said. "Really felt in control this morning." Indeed. He one-putted all six of his birdies, among them a 12-footer at No. 7 and 40-footer at 16. Playing in the group behind Woods, he ran into the same problem at the ninth - a tee shot into the right rough, facing that same overhanging tree branch.

He played it more prudently, though. "The only thing I had from the rough was a chip-out," Furyk said. He hit a 9-iron to about 20 feet and two-putted.

While Furyk was left to ponder that rascally bogey on the last, Scott, the reigning Masters champ, was busy torching the place in the afternoon. The Aussie, swinging that blaspheming long putter, ripped off five straight birdies starting at No. 5. He birdied the 14th to get to 6 -under, then bogeyed the 16th and parred in for his 65.

Scott, playing his 13th PGA - his best finish is seventh - called his five straight birdies, "Probably the best run I've ever had, and I just hit really nice shots and didn't leave myself too much work." It was a front-loaded round, 6-under through the 14th.

Then he got that little quiver. "I was starting to feel it slip, coming in on the last three holes," he admitted. Threre was the bogey at the 16th. He held himself together, though, for two closing pars.

Lee Westwood, the always-threatening Englishman, and Canadian David Hearn, are tied for third with 66s, with Matt Kuchar and the up-and-coming Aussie, Jason Day, in a group at 67.

For a good international flavor, there's Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat - Asia's John Daly, so nicknamed for his heft and go-for-broke approach to the game; shades of the grip-it and rip-it Daly in 1991. Kiradech - first name is the surname in Thailand - turned in a serviceable three-birdie, one-bogey 68, joining Steve Stricker and Jason Dufner, among others.

Japan's Kohki Idoki quickly went from who's-he to a crowd favorite, crashing onto the leaderboard with four straight birdies starting at No. 2. Who this guy was turned out to be a 51-year-old, in the field as the winner of the Senior PGA Championship. He realized it, too, fading fast from a temporary No. 9 to a 72.

The day was such that Hunter Mahan, hero of family-oriented people, was displeased with a par 70, his second-best start in eight PGAs. "Not very good," Mahan lamented. "Didn't hit it very good. Drove it terrible. Not what you're going to need to play this course well."

Mahan, stamped by some as a favorite in this PGA, hit just eight fairways, but still managed to find 14 greens in regulation and, at one point, was as low as 2-under, but was irked because he's come so close in Grand Slams. He played in the final pairing on Sunday at the last two - the U.S. Open at Merion and Open Championship at Muirfield, coming that close to his first major.

Mahan is best known at the moment not for winning a tournament, but quitting.

He was leading by two in the second round of the Canadian Open two weeks ago when word came that his wife, back in Dallas, was about to give birth to their first child. He left the course immediately and returned home in time for the arrival of their daughter, much to the delight of Brandt Snedeker.

So the 70 left Mahan, if displeased and tied for 36th, right there as well.

Marino Parascenzo can assure you that hanging around with great and famous pro golfers does nothing to help your game. They just won't give you the secret. But it makes for a dandy career. As a sportswriter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (now retired), Parascenzo covered the whole gamut of sports - Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Pitt, Penn State and others - but golf was his favorite. As the beat writer for the paper, he covered all the stateside majors and numerous other pro events, and as a freelancer handled reporting duties for the British Open and other tournaments overseas - in Britain, Spain, Italy, the Caribbean, South Africa, China and Malayasia. Marino has won more than 20 national golf-writing awards, along with state and regional honors. He has received the Memorial Tournament's Golf Journalism Award and the PGA of America's Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. His writing has appeared in numerous magazines, among them Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest and Golf Magazine, and in anthologies and foreign publications. He also wrote the history of Oakmont Country Club. Parascenzo is a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America and is on its board of directors. He is the founder and chairman of the GWAA's Journalism Scholarship Program. He is a graduate of Penn State and was an adjunct instructor in journalism at Pitt.


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