News

Tiger looks like a lock for 15th major

 
   
By BILL HUFFMAN
         Tiger Woods opened and closed Friday’s second round with bogeys, but left little doubt that the 91st PGA Championship still goes through him. With a four-shot lead over five players at Hazeltine National entering Saturday’s third round his 15th major championship seems to be all but a formality.
          In other words the popular opinion that followed Woods’ one-shot lead after the first round – “Tiger will win’’ — only got stronger on Day 2. Actually, the tournament might have been over after 12 holes on Thursday even before TNT came on the air. Yeah, Tiger looked that good right out of the chute.
          For those who don’t adhere to the “Tiger is God’’ theory, their hopes were buoyed briefly on Friday, when Tiger messed up the first hole and then found himself in a four-way tie just four holes into the round. And Woods was struggling, up against the wall with eight-foot saves (that he made) at Nos. 3 and 4.
          But a back-nine blitz by Tiger that included three straight birdies beginning at the 14th hole  got everyone talking about “it’s over’’ again, and that might certainly have been the case had Tiger’s eagle putts at Nos. 14 and 15 found their mark, which they nearly did. Even when Woods gave one back with a bogey at the 18th for a 2-under 70 and a 7-under-par 137 total, all those who were in hot pursuit could do was cool their jets and hope for a few “breaks’’ on the weekend.
         Those five players at 3 under include defending champ Padraig Harrington, who shared the lead for much of the day before three straight bogeys beginning at the 11th hole put the brakes on him coupled with a bad bogey at the 18th; Vijay Singh, who didn’t win two PGAs just on his congenial personality alone; Lucas Glover, the U.S. Open champ who is trying to prove he’s no one-major wonder; Ross Fisher, the Englishman who seems to show up at all the majors; and possibly the one-and-only  pretender in the group, Australian Brendan Jones. . . .
       Through 27 holes, Tiger and Paddy looked like they were going head to head in a marathon that dated back to last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Hopefully, they won’t be put on the clock this time, although Harrington no longer is in Woods’ group as they move to the weekend. That “honor’’ goes to Vijay. . . . 
      The reincarnation of Seve  Ballesteros is upon us in Alvaro Quiros, the Spaniard with the best “burns’’ in golf. The 26-year-old Quiros is longer than Daly in J.D.’s prime. Just don’t expect him to be there Sunday even if the cool kid from Cadiz oozes talent. He was one of those at 4-under for awhile Saturday before falling back to earth with five bogeys that left him 1 over. . . .
      The biggest surprise of he day might have been Ernie Els coming back with a 68 to move among the leaders at 1 under after opening with a 75. After Els missed the cut at the British Open by stumbling in at 15-over-par, we seriously thought nothing might be easy for the Big Easy. . . .
      What’s not to like about Rory McIlroy? The 20-year-old kid from Ireland got to 2 under through 16 holes before a double at No. 17 dropped him back to even. At the same time, remember what has happened to Sergio Garcia since he was a promising youngster. It’s true, until you’ve won a major you’ve only got “potential.’’ . . .
     Speaking of Garcia, is Sergio the next Phil Mickelson (zero-for-44 before he won his first major)? The clock struck midnight on Garcia this week, as he was playing in his last major as a 29-year-old.  Yep, “the best player never to have won a major’’ missed the cut, crumpling down the stretch to end up 5 over. . . .  
     Speaking of a bad dream, could Adam Scott be the next David Duval? A couple more 82s in a major, and who knows? When you follow up an 82 with a 79, as Scott did this week, and you ending up missing three out of four cuts in the majors this season, people start to whisper. . . .
        It was great to see Minnesota’s own Tom Lehman (also from Scottsdale) make the cut, which came at 4 over. Especially after Lehman made four bogeys on his first six holes Friday to slip to 4 over before an eagle at No. 7 brought  the biggest roar of the day. It helps when everyone from your hometown of Alexandria is calling your name, and it worked for Lehman, who ended up 2 over. . . .
       The 10-man delegation from Arizona is now down to four players. Those making the cut included Tim Clark (even), Geoff Ogilvy (even), Michael Allen (1 over) and Lehman.
       It’s amazing to watch the wacky world of Lee Westwood, who seems to come up with all kinds of ways to lose majors. His coup de grace this time may have come at No. 17, where he arrived at the green in 4 under and then promptly three-jacked from three feet for double bogey to kill any momentum. . . .
       Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk all hit the cut line (4 over) right on the head. But being 11 shots behind Woods with 36 holes to play is certain to give them headaches. There’s a better chance of hell freezing over than this trio of pre-tournament favorites taking home the Wannamaker Trophy. . . .
      If Tiger does prevail on Sunday it will be his fifth PGA Championship moving him alongside Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus. . . .
       A quick glance at the leaderboard tells us there are five Europeans in the top 12 and only two Americans (Woods and Glover). Three of those Europeans are Englishman (Ian Poulter, Fisher and Westwood), and remember England’s Tony Jacklin prevailed here in the 1970 U.S. Open. . . .
       Hopefully CBS will get over TNT’s habit this week of making up excuses every time a player misses a one-, two- or three-footer. Haven’t we heard enough about the “flowering poannua bumping up the greens’’ late in the day? . . .
       The worst moment of this PGA came Thursday when John Daly withdrew, citing an old back injury caused by a photographer’s flash – a photographer that Daly sued (and lost). Then his coach says Daly “needs to rest’’ because he’s lost 90 pounds on a diet that is self-induced via a rubber-band at the top of his stomach. Geez, do you think Daly’s demise has anything to do with his age (43) and the fact he’s been drinking hard for 25 years?