Saturday, August 14, 2010

Halfway through the PGA

The beauty of the PGA Championship this year is that fresh faces abound on the leaderboard. At one point early in Saturday's third round at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., 20 of the top 23 players were golfers who had never won a major championship.

Also, there were more than a dozen players within three shots of the lead. Ten players were tied for fifth at 5 under par, just three shots behind Matt Kuchar, the 36-hole leader at 8 under. Among that logjam were two of my 12 pre-tournament picks, long-hitting American Dustin Johnson and Northern Ireland's young phenom, 21-year-old Rory McIlroy. Both opened the year's final major with identical scores of 71-68.

Next among my choices was Martin Kaymer. The German, who led early in Thursday's first round before falling back with a 72, rebounded with a 68 to stand at 4 under.

Two of my players, with a combined seven major championships between them, were knotted at 2 under, but they arrived at that number heading in different directions. South African Ernie Els, who won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and the British Open in 2002, followed his opening 68 with a miserable day on the greens for a second-round 74. Phil Mickelson, Masters champion in 2004, 2006 and again this April and winner of the PGA in 2005, fought back from an opening 73 with a 69.

Three of my players reached the halfway point at even par. Rickie Fowler followed an opening 73 with a 71. Retief Goosen, another South African who like his countryman Els has a pair of U.S. Open crowns, raced back from a disastrous 76 with a second-round 68. American Steve Stricker held true to his steady persona with two rounds of even-par 72.

That gave me eight out of 12 players who made the cut, not a bad batting average. It might have been better, though, if Padraig Harrington of Ireland, a three-time major champion, had not taken double bogey on his final hole to shoot 75-71 and miss the cut by a single shot.

Also out after two rounds were Lucas Glover, last year's U.S. Open champion who never got anything going at 74-73, 18-year-old Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa (76-74) and American Sean O'Hair (75-75).

Because of Whistling Straits' length (7,500 yards, with wind conditions adding to that), I like Dustin Johnson's chances.

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