Alvaro Quiros steals the show at Hazeltine


2009 PGA ChampionshipCHASKA, Minn. ' The wind blew toward the tee box, and Hazeltines imposing 11th hole was 606 yards away from Alvaro Quiros while the rock-star group playing in front of him finished on the green.
Quiros got his ball there with only two whacks.
Hey, Tiger! Heads up!
The tournaments top-flight trio ' Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington and 2002 champion Rich Beem ' stole the show in Thursdays first round of the PGA Championship by shooting a combined 10-under par. Woods and Harrington were in the clubhouse in first and second place at 5- and 4-under.
While Woods, Harrington and Beem set up their putts on that par-5 11th hole, Quiross second shot suddenly appeared and rolled up on the front edge of the green.
Its just absolutely phenomenal, Woods said later, adding: You know how big a hit that is?
Quiros, a still-raw 26-year-old from Spain who can hit as long as anyone on tour but missed the cut in the first three majors this year, apologized to the group for the potential scare at the next tee.
I said, Nothing to apologize for. Thats a hell of a shot, Woods said. Thats just stupid long.
Seven years ago, Beem got an eagle on the 11th hole as he held off Woods in the final round at Hazeltine National Golf Club, this long-ago-converted cornfield now set up as the longest course in the history of major championships ' officially 7,674 yards.
Beem himself couldnt help but be impressed.
We were all like, Holy Put a couple of asterisks in there. Just unbelievable, Beem said. I cant believe how far he hit those two shots. I killed a driver and killed a 3-wood, and I had 86 yards to the hole.
Said Harrington: We were all greatly amused by the fact that there was a player out there who can actually hit a ball like that.
Quiros, who started his first PGA Championship ranked 39th in the world, finished Thursday at 3-under with a 69. He had six birdies, but three bogeys, and was in a four-way tie for third place.
With choppy English and a wide smile, Quiros patiently answered dozens of questions about his driving ability from reporters intrigued by the brawn he showed on that challenging 11th hole.
I should be proud, but at the same time not, Quiros said, noting his inability to finish some of his putts.
With a 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame and long arms, he has the body type to be a big hitter. Fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia, a good friend of his, remarked about how easy Quiros makes his swing look.
If he hits it somehow straight, as far as he hits it, he can really play the game of golf, Garcia said. Its all about trying to put the ball in play, and with his potential and strength the course ' even a long course like this ' becomes quite a bit shorter.
Quiros, who finished 15th last week at the World Golf Championship in Ohio, has three career victories on the European tour.
If somebody in these tournaments can hit it always straight, they could be next Tiger Woods or the next Nicklaus, Quiros said. I think its something that everybody works on.
Including the strength part.
All the players work in the gym. In my case, Im starting now. So maybe I can hit it farther in a few months, said Quiros, whose 2007 season was marred by an injury to his left wrist.
Still unfamiliar to the masses, Quiros ' playing with Fred Couples and Lee Westwood ' didnt draw much of a reaction from the galleries. When his putt for par on the 18th hole drifted wide left, barely a murmur was heard ' unlike the loud groans when Woods or Beem would miss one of theirs.
Quiros has a future as a star if, like Garcia said, he can figure out how to hit that ball straight. His bio in the tournament guide describes him as a fan of James Bond films. Hes got Bond-like good looks, too, and the flair of a southern European.
He talks over every shot, every putt, said Couples, who had never before played with Quiros. Its like the one guy said, Hes Lee Trevino on steroids.
Then, of course, theres that strength off the tee.
Quiros reached the 642-yard 15th hole with a driver and a 5-wood during Wednesdays practice round. He clearly has some confidence heading into the second round and, assumedly, the weekend.
The only thing that matters is my game. Im not going to fight against Tiger. Im not going to fight against Harrington, against nobody of those guys, Quiros said. I just fight against myself and the golf course.
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