SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Now that the fog has lifted at the PGA Championship, things are getting interesting.
Matt Kuchar held onto his lead without hitting a shot, Jim Furyk climbed up the leaderboard with a flurry of birdies and Tiger Woods is on the prowl with two rounds in the books. And after two days of wind, rain and fog, conditions are just about perfect for the big names to make some big moves when the third round begins Saturday afternoon.
“With the dots where they are for this afternoon, there’s some really tough pins, but there’s some pretty accessible pins,” Woods said of the third-round setup at Whistling Straits. “Pins that you can take, be pretty aggressive at. You’ll probably see some pretty good scores this afternoon.”
Seventy-two players made the cut at 1-over. Among those who didn’t were Padraig Harrington, who had gotten himself back to even par only to double-bogey the 18th hole. British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell, defending PGA champ Y.E. Yang and Ryder Cup captains Corey Pavin and Colin Montgomerie also missed the cut.
Players will go off of both tees and in groups of three Saturday afternoon in hopes of making up some of the time lost in the long fog delays that delayed the start of play Thursday and Friday.
Kuchar was at 8 under after a 69 Friday, and had to wait until lunchtime to see if his lead would hold up.
Furyk birdied four of his first five holes after play resumed Saturday morning, finishing with a 68 that got him to 6 under. J.B. Holmes (66) is also at 6 under, trailing Kuchar by two strokes and Nick Watney by one. Bubba Watson (71), Vijay Singh (66) and Ryan Palmer (68) joined the big group at 5 under.
But the biggest mover was Woods.
The turmoil in his personal life has spilled over onto the golf course, and he arrived at Whistling Straits fresh off the worst performance of his career. After showing flashes of his old masterful self in the first round, Woods was back to the unpredictable play that’s dogged him all season.
It looked like more of the same Saturday, when he had to scramble early just to make the turn at even par. But he settled down with a birdie to start the back nine, and his 70 has him at 3 under – close enough that Kuchar and everyone else ahead of Woods ought to keep an eye on him.
This was the first time he was under par in back-to-back rounds since the Memorial. And it could have been even better.
After hitting to 8 feet for a birdie on 17, he pulled off a spectacular 5-wood out of the bunker on 18.
“I had no play straight at it,” Woods said of the bunker shot. “I couldn’t build a stance. But because of the slice I had to play, I had a stance for that. And so I went in and tried to play it and I pulled it off.”
Almost made birdie there, too, but his long putt stopped a few inches short of the hole.
“As I explained earlier … I was hitting it great and putting like a dog. And look where I was,” Woods said of his recent struggles. “I’m not hitting it well here and I’m putting well, and I’m right in the ballgame.”
The fog that has wreaked havoc on tee times at the PGA and further muddled what was already a wide-open championship finally lifted Saturday, and the golfers who came back early to finish their second rounds found far more favorable conditions. The wind that had been gusting Friday night was down to a whisper, the humidity was less oppressive and skies were mostly clear.
“Today was pretty much perfect,” Holmes said. “A little bit of breeze, but not much. The greens were good. So it was an opportunity to make some birdies.”
Furyk had birdied No. 9 just before the horn blew Friday night, and picked right back up Saturday morning with a birdie on his first hole. He bogeyed the par-5 11th, picking the wrong target on his second shot and landing in the rough.
But he rebounded with three straight birdies, giving him seven for the round.
“In a stretch of nine holes – over two days,” Furyk said. “The only disappointing part is I played the par-5s one over – three pars and a bogey, which is poor. But the other 14 holes I played beautifully and scored very well.”