Woodland leads rain-delayed PGA Championship

Writing from Town and Country, Missouri

Friday, April 10, 2018


It was great until the thunderstorm played through.

Birdies and eagles were plentiful at Bellerive Country Club. There was a festival atmosphere in the swollen gallery of over 40,000 fans.

Then, five minutes after the first of many insistent rumbles of thunder, and with a cloud blacker than night looming to the north, PGA of America officials blew the hooter.

It was 3:33 p.m. That, as it turned out, was all the golf for the day. The second round in the 100th PGA Championship will continue on Saturday at 7 a.m., followed by Round 3.

But, while it lasted, what golf! Seven-under-par 63s, tying the PGA Championship record, from Brooks Koepka and Charl Schwartzel. A 64 from two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka. Critically, a 66 on top of Thursday’s 64 by Gary Woodland, good for 10-under 130 – a PGA Championship 36-hole record – and the lead at the unscheduled break.

Woodland’s a stroke ahead of Kisner’s 131, two ahead of Koepka’s 132, and three ahead of the 133s of Schwarzel, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, and erstwhile Illinois standout Thomas Pieters, the latter duo posting matching 66s. Rickie Fowler is also at 7-under, 2-under through 10 holes of his round.

All that happened on a golf course that remained soft from Tuesday’s downpours with greens that were deliberately cut to run slower than the typical major championship pace to keep them alive.

In other words, conditions ripe for scoring.

“The golf course is trying to dry up a bit,” Woodland said hours before the latest deluge. “Get in the fairway, the greens are still soft enough you can still attack. The key is get the ball in the fairway and attack from there.”

Woodland was splendid all morning, hitting 15 greens, but best hole was the par-5 17th, which ran every bit of 597 yards on Friday. He hammered a 321-yard drive over a bunker to cut the dogleg right, hit what he called “a little cut 3-wood” from 265 yards to about five feet, and ho-hummed the putt home for an eagle 3.

“It was nice to make that eagle because Kis was on a little run there,” Woodland said.

Who wasn’t?

Kisner started on the back nine, went out in 6-under 29, and appeared to be aiming for a score in the 50s. Parring the first six holes on the course stopped those dreams, and a birdie-par-bogey finish gave him 35 for a mere 6-under 64.

Koepka, in the group ahead of Kisner, opened with three straight birdies and played the back nine in 31, and made three more birdies on the front for 32 and a PGA-tying 63, one off Jim Furyk’s 10-year-old course record.

Fowler opened with a bogey but played 3-under golf after than and was at 7-under at the horn. He could make hay on a softened course Saturday morning.

Brandon Stone is alone in eighth place at 6-under 134, with a host of players at 5-under, some of them still to finish. Nobody in the 78-player afternoon wave has finished. When play resumes, the caboose groups in the field will have 14 holes to play.

Around the PGA

Wheaton native Kevin Streelman was 3-under for the round and 1-under for the tournament when play was suspended. ... Tony Finau had a roller-coaster round that resembled the old Mad Mouse ride. Five straight birdies to open his round. A triple-bogey on the sixth hole. Two more birdies and then a bogey to tour Bellerive’s front nine in 4-under 32. A par – a par? – on the 10th hole followed by another birdie, when he drove the green, chipped close from the back fringe, and knocked in a shortie for his sixth three in 11 holes. Then the horn blew with him 4-under for the day and back to even for the PGA. It had to impress fellow competitor and Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk. ... When play was suspended, the cut was expected to fall at even-par 140, which would be a PGA Championship record, but the continued softening of the course might bring it down a stroke.

Tim Cronin

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