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Winds Soar, Scores Skyrocket at 94th PGA Championship
On a day when the winds were much more hostile than in the comparatively balmy opening round, just one player - Vijay Singh - broke 70 Friday in the 94th PGA Championship at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course in South Carolina.
The windswept, Pete Dye-designed links along the Atlantic caused a traffic jam atop the leaderboard in the year's final major as three players now share the 36-hole lead at 4-under 140. They include three-time major champion Singh, 14-time major winner Tiger Woods and first-round leader Carl Pettersson.
Singh shot a 3-under 69, Woods a 71 and Pettersson, who opened with a 66, a 74. Singh's mark was the day's only one in the 60s.
Singh carded five birdies and two bogeys on a course, at 7,676 yards, that is the longest in major championship history. The "Big Fijian," who turns 50 next February, said later that he avoided thinking about scoring and just focused on every shot. "Right now it feels great," said the two-time PGA champion.
"But I just never thought about the score. I just kept adding it up each hole and trying to make my pars on every hole. That was the key. And I just tried to make my pars, miss it in the correct spot if I was out of position, and be very strong with the longer putts. The lag putts were so key, not to leave myself four- and five footers, and it was very easy to do out there."
Thanks to three birdies and a bogey through 17 holes, Woods could have taken the outright lead entering the weekend but bogeyed the 501-yard, par-4 closing hole. Despite the end of his round, Woods, who opened with a 69, was pleased. "For some reason, the putts were going in," he said at greenside.
"It was tough staying steady - I had to adjust. It was tough, there's no such thing as an easy tap-in. You had to adjust (to the wind) on chips and putts." (See below for Woods's full post-round interview.)
Pettersson, a native of Sweden who makes his home in Raleigh, N.C., got off to a nice start with two birdies in the first three holes. But then the 34-year-old North Carolina State grad ran into a tough stretch with five bogeys on Nos. 6-12. He closed with five pars and a birdie for a 2-over score, not bad for a day with such carnage.
"I thought 2 over today was probably like shooting 2 under yesterday," he said. "I played well. I hit some squirrelly shots which is typical when it's blowing 30 miles an hour, but I hit some really good ones, too. It's just very difficult to get any rhythm in the round."
In solo fourth at 141 is England's Ian Poulter (71), while sharing fifth at 142 are Welshman Jamie Donaldson (73) and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, who opened with a 67 but shot 75 Friday.
"It was very tough," said McIlroy, the 2011 U.S. Open champion. "You know, we've been practicing all week on this range, which the wind has been right to left, and then the first few holes were like that but then you turn through that stretch,6 through 13, and every hole, the wind is off the left. It took a little bit of adjusting to; I missed a few balls right at the start but was able to get into it. When I turned for home, it was nice to make a couple birdies."
Among those at 1-under 143 are two Aussies - Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott, who each shot 75, and American Blake Adams and South Africa's Trevor Immelman, who each had a 72.
Scott was actually happy to escape with a 75. "I think I played pretty well. I mean, I could have saved a couple shots maybe," he said. "But it's very easy to let shots slip out on this golf course. So I think, consider 75 kind of a par round of golf out there today. It's really very tough. I did a lot of good things. I hit a lot of fairways again. And that makes this course a little bit easier.
"But it is hard when you miss the greens. There's some severe spots, and I made a couple errors, but it's going to happen on a day like today. You've just got to stick with it, keep grinding, and like I said, I'm not disappointed with 75."
Phil Mickelson carded a 71 after opening with a 73, a 1-over effort that was five shots lower than Friday's average score of 78. "It's very challenging and the reason I think is a couple of things," the 2005 PGA winner said. "One, most every hole is a direct crosswind; and two, you're not able to really play the ball on the ground here. You have to play it through the air, because the greens all repel off. You can't really roll a shot up. That makes it difficult, because you have to play the ball through the air.
"You have to challenge and take on the crosswinds, and if you get it going with the crosswinds, your misses are going to be very big. And so it's a difficult test. But, it's one of the best setups I've seen. There's plenty of room in the fairways if you drive the ball well and hit a good shot, it will be in the fairway.
"You know from the tee if you hit a good shot, if it is in the fairway or not," he added. "The greens are receptive so if you hit a good, solid shot, they will hold on the green. There's plenty of room to play on this course. There's plenty of room to miss it and still have a shot. It's just a very well designed golf course given that conditions are very common around here like this."
Among those he's sharing 11th with at 144 are Tim Clark (73), Peter Hanson (75) and 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, who spoke for the rest of the players about the Ocean Course in the second round. "It's one of the toughest set-ups I think I've seen at a major championship in a long time," the Northern Irishman said. "They didn't put the tees very far forward. The pin on 14 and the pin on 17, I'm not sure how you get within 20 feet of those. It was just about set-up.
"It was a tough setup on a calm day, and with a 30 mile an hour wind across this course, you've got a serious test of golf on your hands. 75 or below is a decent score out there, I really believe that. Vijay's 69, that's a serious score. That's a serious score."
Like many, defending champion and the winner in last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Keegan Bradley, had a difficult day. The 26-year-old Vermont native started off okay with a pair of birdies and two bogeys. But that all changed on the 3,936-yard back nine, where he bogeyed four of the first five holes. He's now tied for 15th at 145 with, among others, 1991 PGA champion John Daly, who shot a 77.
Despite his travails, Bradley feels he's in good shape for the final two rounds. "I'm still right in it, the lead is 4-under and I'm only five back," he said. "If it's like this, any round under par, you'll be okay no matter what."
The cut line was set at 6-over 150. No 1-ranked Luke Donald made it right on the number despite rounds of 74 and 76, as did South Carolinian Dustin Johnson, who stumbled to a 79 after opening with a 71.
Two British Open champions - Darren Clarke (76) and Louis Oosthuizen (79) are both at 149.
Webb Simpson, 2012 U.S. Open champion, rallied significantly from his opening 79, posting a 72 Friday. But he won't be playing this weekend, missing the cut by a stroke.
None of the club pros made the cut, with Bob Sowards of Ohio the high finisher at 152. "It was brutal out there," said the 44-year-old "It was very difficult. The hardest thing is putting. The greens are so smooth and they're all up, so you have to play wind with putting, and that's the biggest thing. I feel like I gave away four shots putting. But who knows, I mean, it's tough not to three putt out there because it's tough to get it close. I felt like I hit it pretty good, just not good enough."
For all the scores, visit http://www.pga.com/pgachampionship/scoring/leaderboard.
After signing his scorecard, Woods met with reporters for the following interview.
MODERATOR: Tiger Woods joining us after a 1 under par 71 in the second round of the 94th PGA Championship, He is at 4 under par, 140 midway through the championship tied with Vijay Singh and Carl Pettersson. Tiger, couple of three birdies in there, two bogeys, I know it wasn't the way you wanted to finish the round, but comments on the round today and in particular, the conditions.
TIGER WOODS: I thought going out today, anything even par or better was going to be a good score. That was my goal. So I went out today and I accomplished that. It was a tough, tough day. The greens, for some reason, there are a lot of high points, and the ball is oscillating, the wind is blowing the ball all over - I'm sorry, the putter, all over the place. The starting lines are crazy out there off these tee shots. But it was blowing all day, the morning guys and the afternoon guys, so I don't think anyone had an advantage.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Tiger. You've had 23 one-putts over the first two rounds. If you would, go through your scorecard starting with 2.
TIGER WOODS: 2, I hit a driver and 8 iron down there and putted it on the green and 2 putted from 40 feet. 4, I hit a 3 iron and a 7 iron in there to about, oh, about 40 feet again and made that one. Bogeyed 8. I hit a 6 iron and rode the wind over there in the bunker, blasted out to about 15 feet and missed it. 12, I hit a 5 wood and an 8 iron to about, oh, three feet and made that. 18, I hit a driver and a 6 iron to about 30 feet left of the hole and three-putted there.
Q. I know it's late, so two from me. One, eight out of nine up and downs, putted very well obviously but chipped very well; this year, you've been hitting the ball better, but your short game might be a little rusty, so talk about that. And secondly, we know how much majors mean to you. You had a chance, U.S. Open, British Open; how do you approach this differently this weekend and to try and get that one?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as far as my short game, my short game's been good. I've made a few changes, and it was actually pretty good at the British Open, as well. But they were different shots, different type of shots. This week, we've got to throw the ball up, and I've had a pretty good feel for it. It helped coming here early and hitting a lot of chip shots that Tuesday before I went to Akron. And as far as the last couple majors, hey, I'm right there with a chance, and that's I like that. So I'm playing better to where I'm going to give myself chances in major championships, I'm right there. So we have got a long way to go and I don't know what the forecast is for tomorrow, if it's going to blow like this or not blow like this, but if it's anything like this over the weekend, with no rain, it's going to be tough. It's going to be tough to get the ball close to these holes.
Q. Carl was just in here and we asked him if he could compare this to anywhere else and he compared it to the 2002 Open championship where you had the wind blowing in and but you also had the cold rain. As I recall, you got caught on the bad side of that Open. Is there anything that you can compare today to?
TIGER WOODS: Well, yes, it's like that, but 50 degrees warmer (shrugging shoulders). It's summertime, too, and it's still 50 degrees colder. Now, as far as - yeah, we've played in wind like this and we've played links golf, but it's no big deal because you can bump the ball on the ground. You can throw it 30 yards short of the green and let it roll on the green. Here, you just can't do it. You've got to throw the ball in the air. That's what makes it difficult is that it's a linksy type of feel, in which you can't use the ground at all. Paspalum, as well as the rain, it just negates all of that.
And then when you get around the greens, some of these shots would be nice to be able to bump it but you can't do, that either, because it's too sticky. You might be able to play some kind of driving one hop stop shot but even then you're taking a chance. It's just, one, you can't short side yourself out there, you've got to leave yourself on the fat side and give yourself some room. And then some of these bunkers are not bunkers. They are, you know, like either hard pan or mud. A shot that Keegan played today on 16 was unbelievable, because it was mud down there. And that's what can happen in some of these spots. I had a spot on 8 today that where my feet were, I had no sand, but where the golf ball was, it was a ton of sand. Luckily we are able to take practice swings and try to get a feel for it but it's tough out there.
Q. Last week when you were here, and again earlier this week, you seemed to suggest you wanted some wind. Wondering, though, if this is a little bit more than you would have hoped for? Obviously you want it tough, but this is pretty brutal?
TIGER WOODS: This is tough. This is - as you said, at times, it is a little bit brutal out there because you're playing so much drift. Even if you hook it or slice the golf ball, it doesn't matter. It's still drifting back at the end. And even with these new golf balls that go so much straighter, they are still drifting a lot. So at least we don't have to play this golf course with this much wind with balata balls. That would have been interesting.
Q. Just a couple putting questions, I think you had 11 one-putts today. Was there something that clicked in your practice with your putting or was it catching lightning in a bottle or somewhere in between? And if you could take us through what happened with the putt on 18, a little bit aggressive I guess?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I putted great on the weekend at Akron. I holed a bunch of putts, I believe I made I think six putts over 20 feet on the weekend. I did a lot of good, solid work on Thursday and Friday after I putted so poorly, and I felt great on the weekend. I was rolling the ball the way that I know I can role the golf ball. And I just basically carried it over to here this week. As far as putting on 18, I know that putt runs away from me. I charted it in my book and I have the feel, and I still hit it too hard. I was leaning on my left side a little bit with the wind blowing, trying to brace myself, and just didn't work out.
Q. Kelly mentioned the 23 one-putts, and I think you had a hole out. Out of your 14 major wins, does one of them stand out as a really superior putting performance? And then you talked about putting in these windy circumstances; is it difficult to find opportunities to practice putting in these kind of conditions?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the second part of your question is, yeah, we don't really get a chance to putt too much in windy conditions like this, unless we are playing at The Open. We just don't play in wind like this. As far as 14 majors that I've had, putting performances, there's two of them. I didn't miss a putt inside 10 feet at Augusta in '97, as well as the 2000 Open. Those are two pretty good majors.
Q. The biggest question that's being debated in golf right now is, is Tiger back. How will you define when you're back? Is it when you win one major, more than one major or more than one in a year? How do you define it?
TIGER WOODS: I'm back playing a full schedule this year. I've not played a full schedule in a very long time. I've been told I would never win again, so I'll just play it out and I know that once I get into the rhythm of playing, playing tournaments and being able to practice and work on the things that Sean wants me to work on, things will get better, and they have. And I'm starting to see some nice consistency and I'm very pleased by that.
Q. Can you explain a little bit more about how the wind affects the putting? Is it more of an impact on the short putts or the long putts?
TIGER WOODS: It's everything. Because the putter, it's virtually impossible to take it back without it moving all over the place. There were a couple of times that I got blown and the putter was wavering all over the place, and I adjusted on the downswing and got a feel for it and timed it up perfectly and ended up making it. But then there were times when I didn't time it right, the wind blew me or it let up and my path changed or my body position changed and I missed it. So we are also playing wind on putts, as well. There were a couple of times I played probably a foot more break because the wind is coming off sideways and it's just going to continue moving. It's tough, because you try and hit it, you try and get steady, you try to make a solid stroke, and from there, whatever happens, happens.
Q. You've talked about how difficult the conditions are right now, you said it doesn't really compare to anywhere else. Where would you rank this among the most difficult conditions that you've played in in your career?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it would have been - it would have been near the top of the list if it wasn't soft. But we have soft conditions out there. The ball is sticking in the fairways. We are making ball marks on the greens. There were a few times when we have played under some tough U.S. Open circumstances where that wasn't the case, and then it gets a little dicey. You know, I think everyone remembers what happened at Shinnecock when they kind of lost the greens there.
Q. A little over a 5 1/2 hour round in those tough conditions, mentally, how tough is it to stay focused for that amount of time in those conditions? Guys were walking off the course looking like they got beat up.
TIGER WOODS: Because we did. It's been a long day, and we knew that going into it. You know, we thought it was going to be around the five-and-a-half-hour mark, and we were just slightly over that. So it's tough, because these conditions beat you up already, and then the pace of play kind of adds to it, and there's just no letup. Sometimes you can have slow days, but the conditions aren't brutal like this. On a Pete Dye golf course, it's just - there's nowhere to go. You can't miss the golf ball here, and if you're playing poorly, it's just going to slow up play. It's not so hard to make doubles and triples here, or higher. And you know, we had that in our group and I'm sure we're not the only group that had that problem.
MODERATOR: Tiger Woods, tied for the lead at the PGA Championship.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.