The fog lifts, and Matt Kuchar emerges to do just enough to keep lead at PGA ChampionshipBy Nancy Armour, AP
Friday, August 13, 2010
Matt Kuchar in control for now at PGA Championship
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — The only thing clear after two days of fog-induced havoc at the PGA Championship is that Matt Kuchar is playing very, very well.
Kuchar ran off three straight birdies on his way to a 69 Friday and, at 8 under, the early second-round lead. But half of the field won’t complete their second rounds Friday after morning fog delayed the start of play for a second straight day.
“We’ll just wait and see what happens,” Kuchar said. “They could get lucky if the storm blows through and then they get some clear skies and some calm conditions. But sitting around right now, it’s nice to be done.”
Nick Watney led a group of the not-so-famous eager to extend the season streak that saw first-timers Graeme McDowell (U.S. Open) and Louis Oosthuizen (British Open) become major champions. Watney, who missed the cut in his two previous PGAs, is at 7 under (68).
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 Noh Seung-yul (71), Dustin Johnson (68), Simon Khan (70), Rory McIlroy (68) and 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson (70).
“This is what we practice to do,” Molder said. “To see if our game and our practice and the work that we do off the course and on the course can pay off.”
Phil Mickelson, who has yet another opportunity to take the world No. 1 ranking from Tiger Woods, had the makings of a great day with six birdies. But it was undercut by a double-bogey at 18 and another bogey, and he’s at 2 under for the tournament along with Ernie Els.
“This is a penalizing golf course to not play from the fairway. And I certainly explored a lot of areas here,” Lefty said.
Mickelson also hit a fan with his tee shot on 15 — though Mickelson made up for it by giving the guy a glove that he signed and wrote “Sorry” on, even putting a frowning face inside the “o.”
Steve Stricker might have felt like that frowning guy after his tee shot on 17 landed below the par-3’s elevated green. He banged it against the embankment not once, but twice, and wound up with a triple-bogey. He’s at even par for the tournament.
Though the fog has made the PGA seem more like a British Open — there was rain Friday afternoon, too — Kuchar was proof that decent scores were available on the 7,514-yard, links-style monster. Maybe that was a good sign for Tiger Woods, who finished his first round at an encouraging 1-under 71 and had to wait until dinnertime to begin a second round he certainly wouldn’t complete by sundown.
Bubba Watson and Francesco Molinari, whose 68s gave them the clubhouse lead before the first round was suspended for darkness Thursday night, also had late tee times Friday.
“I’m very pleased with the way I’ve been playing. It’s been a great year,” said Kuchar, who has eight top 10s, including a tie for sixth at the U.S. Open. “Not too much trouble to report. I’m putting well, staying out of trouble and I find myself at 8 under par.”
He’s hit 23 of 28 fairways through the first two rounds, and needed only 52 putts.
The back nine has been more forgiving than the front, playing about a stroke easier, and Kuchar took full advantage.
He was just over the green in two on No. 11, at 618 yards the longest par-5 on the course, and chipped within 2 feet for the first of three straight birdies.
“Those were the downwind holes,” Kuchar said. “I knew that those were the holes, if I was going to take advantage, those were going to be them.”
His only trouble of the day came on No. 6, when he hooked his tee shot left and the ball bounced on a path trampled down by spectators and rolled down a hill before finally coming to a stop on a service road. Kuchar took relief — if you can call it that. His ball was on a slope so steep he couldn’t even see the green, but he actually had a chance to save par, leaving his putt a few feet short.
“It seems like now, the position I’ve put myself in this year, the logical next step would be to win,” said Kuchar, whose victory at Turning Stone last year was only his second on the PGA Tour and first since 2002.
“To win, there’s definitely an element of luck involved in winning. You just can’t control everything out there. So we came to the conclusion that the best way to approach a week is to give yourself a chance Sunday, and if fate is on your side, you find yourself in the winner’s circle.”
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