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Day 1 Results: The 'Monster' Sleeps Late, Then Wakes & Roars
I wonder if "The Monster" is a bit of a slacker because she sure slept in today. Players in both sessions soared to 3- and even 4-under par before bowing late in the first round of the 90th PGA Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club's fabled South Course in Bloomfield Township, Mich.
Robert Karlsson and Jeev Milkha Singh went out early and carded 2-under 68s, then watched as players streaked past before falling back again late. They lead with Andres Romero, 2-below-par with two holes to play as rain halted play for an hour and a half, leaving 18 players to complete as many as four holes tomorrow morning.
Four players fired 1-under 69s: Players champion Sergio Garcia, young gun Sean O'Hair, grizzled veteran Billy Mayfair and Ken Duke.
Two-time British Open champion Padraig Harrington opened the day birdie-birdie-birdie to reach 3-under, then fell back during the toughest stretch on the course, hole Nos. 7-9. He finished 1-over 71.
"Felt like I played a lot better than 71," the Irishman remarked. "I really struggled on the greens. I had a number of putts that the hole lipped-out on, so (my round) made me feel like I was putting a lot worse than I was, maybe. And then it even got a little bit into my longer game towards the end of the round as I was getting a bit more frustrated."
Harrington, a candid, affable man and mercurial player, still provided plenty of excitement. His iron approach to the par-3 third hit the exact center of the flagstick, but caromed away for a kick-in putt and a third consecutive birdie. But his luck continued downward as he lipped out several crucial putts the rest of the round, resulting in five bogeys and four birdies.
Garcia also had an interesting day, firing a 69 while hitting only four fairways out of 14. "I scrambled well," the Spaniard remarked in a relieved voice. Garcia managed to hit five greens from out of the rough and nine overall, taking a mere 26 putts. "I putted good, I chipped good," he said. "I hit a lot of good shots into the greens and 1-under on this course? I'm thrilled with it. Now I'm going to the range to hopefully get some confidence with my driving."
Garcia will need it. As Lee Trevino famously quipped, "Chipping and putting for par is like a dog chasing cars, he won't be doing it for very long." It's especially true at Oakland Hills, a course whose reputation was built considerably on its hurly-burly greens.
The other half of the reputation was built on Robert Trent Jones's bunkers, rough and narrow fairways. But that didn't seem as important because, once again at a major, players hit many fairways out of what was supposed to be penal rough. Statistics show missing the fairway cost the player less than half a stroke. Ken Duke, Ryan Moore and Anthony Kim all hit between 35-44% fairways, but shot 1-under, respectively. The field hit only 46% of their fairways and 50% of the greens in regulation. Holes seven through nine all featured a miniscule 30-40% GIR for the entire field.
As a result, most players atop the leaderboard had up-and-down rounds and cluttered scorecards. Phil Mickelson's even-par 70 featured five birdies and five bogeys. He's in an eight-person logjam with former U.S. Amateur champion Moore, Kim, 2007, U.S. Open winner Angel Cabrera and four others.
Still, the day belonged to two names more familiar with the nether reaches of the PGA Tour top-fives than the penthouse, and journalists scrambled to familiarize themselves with "the Other Singh" and the most obscure Swedish player barring Peter Hanson. "You mean that's not Vijay?" asked one older scribe as he looked at the media center leaderboard, which only said "Singh."
"For the last six holes, I thought it was him!"
Singh eagled the second hole and added three more birdies at the murderous and infamous fifth, the controversial 15th with its center-line bunkers, and the long and difficult par-3 17th. "Yeah, the eagle gave me a jump start . . . After that, I just kept plugging away and made a lot of up-and-downs and I think that my putting helped me quite a bit today. My short game was sharp. Didn't drive the ball that good. But any time you shoot under par in a major championship I think you got to take it and put it deep down in your pocket and I've done that today."
Robert Karlsson's tournament started in Gawd-awful fashion. He double-bogeyed the first before birdies on six of his next 10 holes to reach 4-under, before bogeys at 14 and 15 pulled him back.
Indeed, soaring early then staggering home was contagious. Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen skyrocketed to 4-under, then bogeyed six of his last 11 holes to finish at 2-over. 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis was 3-under before surrendering six bogeys in the last eight holes. At mid-day 20 players were under par, prompting one irreverent press wag to ask, "Monster? What Monster?"
Still, 34 players are within three shots of the lead and 61 are within five. Jim Furyk, another player who stood in great shape at 2-under before the seventh tee (his 16th hole of the day), finished bogey-bogey-bogey to end at 1-over. He was joined there by 18 others including Harrington, Aaron Baddeley, Steve Stricker, Peter Hanson, Brandt Snedecker and Ernie Els.
Kenny Perry was a scratch, literally. An abrasion to his cornea became infected, ending his tournament after fighting to an opening 79. A clearly hurting Perry was dejected and frustrated at this unexpected end. "It was annoying and difficult to be trying to fight a tough golf course and have my eye aggravating me at the same time," Perry said, who will finish the year playing only one round out of the year's four majors.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://www.jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.