It's anybody's race at Oakland Hills
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2008 US PGA Championship | Round Two | 09 Aug 2008
If the 2008 PGA Championship was a boxing contest it would be a case of rounds one and two to the host venue, Oakland Hills.
Long hitting J.B. Holmes, the only player now under par for the tournament, leads the way after 36 holes by one over major championship debutante, Charlie Wi, and the more experienced Ben Curtis and Justin Rose.
18 players were required to return to the course early on day two to complete their opening rounds, one of those a co-leader when play was halted on day one. Andres Romero bogeyed his final hole of round one but at one under 69 he had started he event well. Five hours later he was struggling to make the cut, his second round of 79 seeing him scrape inside the cutline.
That was the story for several others also. Rod Pampling started the tournament well with an opening round of two under 70 but a day later he was packing his bags after a second round of 81 saw him miss the cut by three.
With the golf course beginning to dry out and pins cut in some dastardly positions, the scores skyrocketed and anybody capable of equalling or breaking par in round two would make huge progress. Holmes did well yesterday but did even better today, his round of 68 giving him the advantage.
This is a golf course on which even the straightest of hitters are struggling to find the fairway and so for one of the game’s powerhouse players, his length is even more of an advantage. Three birdies early in his back nine today had moved him to 3 under for the tournament but he bogeyed the 15th and 17th to finish just one ahead.
“Yeah, it was probably the best ball-striking I’ve had this year,” said Holmes after his round. “I actually hit it pretty good last week, too. Not quite that good, but I putted terrible last week.”
The second rounds of 67 from Curtis and Justin Rose advanced both players 41 places on the leaderboard and at even par they are right in the firing line. So too is Charlie Wi who, although playing in just his first major championship, has been particularly impressive. Wi fought back after a double bogey at the 8th to play the next ten holes in one under and at even par he will be in the for the day of his life tomorrow as the spotlight falls well and truly on him in the final group of the day.
At 1 over and just two back are Henrik Stenson and 2001 Champion, David Toms. Stenson is shaping as a likely winner of the event. He was third at the recent Open Championship and, despite flying under the radar for much of this year, he has nonetheless produced several very good tournament finishes. Although yet to win a major championship, this appears Stenson’s greatest chance. He has not always displayed the greatest of patience but if he can maintain that key attribute over the next couple of days then he has a great opportunity.
Sergio Garcia four putted his 16th hole for a double bogey but he is playing well enough to be a factor over the weekend. He is amongst a large group at 2 over and despite his shaky finish is a player many of his rivals will be wary of.
Mickelson also finished badly dropping three shots in his last five holes but at 3 over, and just four behind the lead, he is arguably most credentialed player in the field and could well win his second PGA Championship on Sunday.
Of the Australasians, Aaron Baddeley continued the form improvement he showed in the latter stages of last week’s Bridgestone Invitational and at 2 over is not only the leading Australasian but very much in the thick of contention.
“It is a US Open – It’s as simple as that,” said Baddeley after his round. “There’s one guy under par right now, and conditions are exactly like the US Open, rough being thick, greens being firm and crusty and it’s playing tough.”
Michael Campbell produced a major form reversal to be at four over and in 21st place which, after his form over the last 12 months, is quite a revelation. He shares 21st with, amongst others, the 1995 champion Steve Elkington.
Stuart Appleby bounced back from his opening round of 76 with a round of 70 to have created an opportunity for himself, while Mark Brown’s 69 has seen the New Zealander make the cut in his very first major championship.
Geoff Ogilvy at 7 over, and John Senden, Peter Lonard and Richard Green and Robert Allenby at 8 over will also play the weekend. For Allenby, his late rally from 11 over with four holes to play was stunning and birdies at his final two holes has at least given him a chance to advance further.
Oakland Hills has already shown that an under par round will make huge amounts of ground and each and every player inside the cutline may well still feel they have a chance of winning this tournament. 73 players are in that category and all within 9 shots of the lead.
It promises to be a great weekend.