Tiger takes control at Southern Hills
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2007 US PGA Championship | Round Two | 11 Aug 2007
The halfway point at the PGA Championship has been reached although most would agree that this tournament is only at the halfway stage in terms of the number of holes played. The final two rounds of any tournament are full of intrigue, drama and pressure but with this being a major championship there is guaranteed to be even more over the next 48 hours. Days one and two are all about avoiding disasters and jockeying for positions in order that a sustained challenge can be lodged over the weekend.
Of course such dynamics change when Tiger Woods has already taken the lead at the halfway mark. It might just be that the horse has already bolted. Woods’ round of was one of the lowest in the history of major golf but it went very close to be something even more special. On 22 occasions a score of 63 has been produced in major golf but not once has 62 been achieved. Today Woods had his chance but was unable to secure that one last birdie over the closing three holes which would have added yet another record to his amazing tally.
Woods holed several lengthy putts through the course of his stunning round but it was perhaps his 35 foot for par at the 12th after his approach had finished in a plugged lie in the left hand trap that was the most important in that it kept the momentum going. That momentum was converted to birdies over the next three holes. Woods got up and down from the trap at the par five 13th, chipped in for birdie at the 14th and then holed another monster from 30 feet for birdie at the 15th.
At that point Woods took the lead outright over Geoff Ogilvy and it might just be that is the last this field sees of Tiger over the remaining two rounds. Woods had outside chances over the closing three holes to edge further ahead and take that record but he was unable to do so despite a great second to the last, shaped around the trees ahead and to 15 feet and a putt that looked a certainty to fall before horse-shoeing around the hole.
“Well, funny thing is I felt almost as good yesterday with my ball-striking,” said Woods after his round. “I just lost the round a little bit there in the middle part of the round. and never got it back. As I said yesterday, I hit the ball better than my score indicated. And I felt good about today because I hit the ball well yesterday. It’s just a matter of doing the same thing I did yesterday. Maybe cleaning up the round a little bit, not so many mistakes. And make a few more putts and I did that today.”
Verplank was the early leader on day two when he produced an almost faultless no bogey, four birdie round of 66 to move to 4 under and when he walked from the 18th just after 1.00pm before Woods had even teed off, he was the leader, along with Stephen Ames who was playing 15 minutes behind Verplank. Ames would bogey the last however and just before Woods teed off Verplank led by one over Ames.
“Well just because of the way the golf course is playing, the way it’s set up, you’ve obviously got to hit it in the fairway,” said Verplank after his round when asked why Mickelson had been so impressed with his (Verplank’s) chances this week. “And the gnarly stuff around the greens, you’re really helping yourself if you’re hitting a lot of greens. Like I said, I hit the ball yesterday and today as good as I’ve hit it all year. And obviously it works pretty well around here.”
Woods made an immediate statement when he birdied the first and by the time he arrived at the sixth tee he was three under for the day and two under for the tournament. He was already looking threatening but he would get even more so as the day wore on. A bogey at the 7th slowed things briefly but he was back almost immediately to turn in 32 as he headed for home and the eventual tournament lead.
Geoff Ogilvy has not played well in recent weeks but here he was on one of the biggest stages of all looking cool calm and collected in the heat of the battle and of the day. He was doing nothing special until he made the turn but four birdies in his next six holes had moved him to a share of the lead with Woods before Woods birdied the 15th from long range and Ogilvy bogeyed each of the last two holes to fall back into a share of third.
“It has been pretty disappointing, especially in the majors,” said Ogilvy reflecting on his recent form. “Especially the U.S. Open and at Carnoustie where I missed the cut, which was my first miss in a major, because I thought I was a chance right there.”
“It’s hard to talk to a guy after just bogeying the last two holes, I’m a little bit annoyed but I’m happy where I am. Hopefully if I play decent I’m playing good enough. If I hit a couple more fairways, I’m putting good enough but I have to hit more fairways.”
“I’m happy. If you asked me on the first day, 3-under would be a pretty good spot, I would say, yes, that’s pretty good so I’m pretty happy.”
At 2 under and alone in fifth place is Woody Austin while at one under are, John Senden, Pat Perez, and Niclas Fasth. Like Ogilvy, Senden would bogey the final two holes but the Australian has played in only five major championships, his best being when 35th at the British Open last year. He has a great opportunity to not only beat that record but to perhaps even challenge for something much more special.
At even par is Ernie Els who might yet prove to be Woods’ greatest challenger. Els missed several opportunities today and appears to be close to putting together a very good round. If he is able to do just that then Els might emerge as a genuine threat to Woods apparent domination and likely victory.
The question on everyone’s lips is whether anyone can give Tiger a start and chase him down. For that reason alone the next 48 hours will be intriguing but there are many other stories within stories that should make this a great weekend.