Kuchar in the lead _ for now _ as Woods and others just getting started

By Doug Ferguson, AP
Friday, August 13, 2010

A long, strange day with no clear view at PGA

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Matt Kuchar might finally have figured out what it’s going to take to win.

“There’s definitely an element of luck involved,” he said. “You just can’t control everything out there.”

Welcome to this year’s PGA Championship.

Thick fog delayed the start of play for a second straight day Friday, wreaking havoc on tee times and further muddling what was already a wide-open championship. Only one player in the top 10 has won a major, and one guy’s best finish is a win on the Nationwide Tour.

The lone constant is Kuchar, who took the lead with a birdie on his first hole of the day and was still there some 10 hours later, when play was halted because of darkness. His 69 in the second round left him at 8 under with a one-stroke lead over Nick Watney.

But half the field — including Tiger Woods — was still on the course.

“I’m not sure when I’m going to tee off or when they are going to finish the second round even,” Watney said. “So it’s a bit strange when usually the cut is being made around this time.”

Strange is a good word for this PGA — the entire season, really. The turmoil in Woods’ personal life has spilled over into his game, two players shot 59s and both the U.S. Open (Graeme McDowell) and British Open (Louis Oosthuizen) were won by first-timers.

While this kind of showing has been expected of Kuchar since he won the U.S. Amateur, that was 13 years ago.

“I think it’s golf,” said Kuchar, who was the low amateur at both the Masters and U.S. Open in 1998. “I went through some stretches of not having it, but have kind of dug my way out.”

He’s had eight top 10s this year, including ties for sixth at the U.S. Open and second at the Bob Hope Classic. And few are playing Whistling Straits with more ease or confidence.

He made only two bogeys in his first two rounds, along with eight birdies and an eagle. He nearly holed out again from the 13th fairway again Friday. He’s hit 23 of 28 fairways, and needed only 52 putts.

“I’m very pleased with the way I’ve been playing,” Kuchar said. “I’m putting well, staying out of trouble.”

But his lead is far from safe, not with so many players chasing him and more bad weather on the horizon.

Bryce Molder, Kuchar’s teammate at Georgia Tech, is three strokes behind his good friend after shooting 5-under 67. Also at 5 under are Jason Dufner (66), 19-year-old S.Y. Noh (71), big-hitting Dustin Johnson (68), Simon Khan (70), Rory McIlroy (68) and 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson (70).

Phil Mickelson scrambled his way to a 69, putting him at 2 under — and very much alive in his quest to move to No. 1 in the world for the first time.

These topsy-turvy rounds can be Mickelson’s most entertaining, and Friday was no exception. He carries extra gloves in his bag for souvenirs when he hits a fan, and he had to dig one out on the 15th hole after bonking a guy off the tee.

Not only did Mickelson sign it, Lefty wrote “Sorry” on it, making a frowning face inside the “o.”

“This is a penalizing golf course to not play from the fairway,” Mickelson said. “And I certainly explored a lot of areas here.”

Woods did, too.

After showing signs of the old, masterful Woods in the first round, the unpredictable play that’s marked his woeful year was back on display. He scrambled for pars off a cart path, out of grass up to his knees and from a grassy knoll.

When the horn sounded, he’d played six holes and made six pars, keeping him at 1 under.

“Had to hang in there, and did a good job with that,” he told a PGA official.

Bubba Watson, whose 68 gave him a share of the clubhouse lead Thursday, looked as if he was going to catch Kuchar in a hurry. He birdied his first two holes, and had a 5-foot putt to make it three in a row and pull within one shot of Kuchar.

But he ran it 4 feet by and wound up three-putting for bogey.

Watson stumbled again on the par-5 16th when his shot out of a bunker caught the lip. He’s 3 under for the tournament with nine holes still to play Saturday morning.

Asked how he’ll keep his focus overnight, Watson didn’t even try to come up with a clever answer.

“I have no idea,” he said. “You tell me, and then I’ll tell you.”

will not be displayed