When is a gimme not a gimme? On the 18th green of Kiawah Island’s wind-swept Ocean Course, according to Tiger Woods, whose putting performance on Friday got him into a share of the 36-hole lead despite a short miss for par on his final hole.
“It was tough out there, wow. You can't take anything for granted, simple tap‑in is not a simple tap-in,” Woods told reporters after carding a 1-under 71 on a long day on the links when brutal winds sent PGA Championship scores zooming and balls flying off course. “The putter is oscillating all over the place and the ball is oscillating and you have to make an adjustment, at least I was on my down swing and my putts, because the putter is being blown all over the place.”
Woods, who has played well until the weekends in majors this season, heads into Saturday tied with Vijay Singh and first-round leader Carl Petterrsson. He hoped to maintain the momentum he had gained from his flat stick in the first two days on the seaside track, even though he lost the outright lead with that three-putt on 18.
"For some reason putts are going in," Woods said. "A couple times I got blown while making a stroke and would have to adjust midway on the downswing...It was just one of those tough days.
"It was tough, man. It was fun, but it was really tough,” he added. “You’re getting blown all over the place and there’s no such thing as an easy tap-in."
That’s for sure; just ask Rickie Fowler, who, at 10-over, missed the cut (the projected cut line was at 6-over when officials suspended play due to darkness with one player still on the field) -- and possibly his chances of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team -- with an 80.
“This wasn’t your normal day of golf,” Fowler told the Associated Press after weathering wind gusts up to 30 m.p.h. that never let up all day.
Adam Scott, who has battled back to 1-under and a tie for seventh after his collapse at the British Open, said his 75 felt like even-par, agreed.
"It's very tough," Scott said. "I think I played pretty well. I mean, I could have saved a couple shots, maybe. But it's very easy to let shots slip on this golf course. So I consider 75 kind of a par round of golf out there today. I did a lot of good things."
Even Singh, whose 69 was one of just four sub-par rounds on Friday, could not believe the conditions Mother Nature threw at the field of the world’s best golfers.
"If you had a golf course like this and you asked me to go and play golf in windy conditions, I'd say, `No, I'm not going to play.' I guess nobody is going to go out and play in conditions like this," said Singh. "But it's a major, and we have to go out there and just struggle and manage yourself the best you can."
And then there was Phil Mickelson, who turned in one of those under-par rounds (71) in the morning wave and watched himself move up the leaderboard as the course knocked down player after player in the afternoon. Lefty, who entered the week with his Ryder Cup hopes sinking after some seriously poor play that he has blamed on fatigue, will start the weekend just four shots back of the leaders. He even predicted what scores would be after he finished.
“I think if somebody shoots better than four, better than Vijay, that’s going to be a heck of a play this afternoon," Mickelson said. "If I’m within four shots or so heading into the weekend, that’s a really good position where I can actually feel my game get better as the week’s gone on."
Like Woods, who needed just 22 putts on Thursday and made five one-putts on his first seven holes on Friday, Mickelson rode a hot putter into the weekend. Despite finding just 11 of 28 fairways and 15 of 36 greens, according to PGATour.com’s Helen Ross, Mickelson drained 25 putts each of the first two days.
As for Woods, who said his confidence was high because he’d “been in this position many times over my career,” the world’s second-ranked golfer made a statement that might have others shaking in their FootJoys, if the wind weren’t already bowling them over.
“I've been driving the ball well all year, and I've been putting streaky all year,” he said. “Finally I've married the two together, and it's working out.”
Woods, by the way, has gone on to win major championships in which he’s at least shared the second-round lead eight of 10 times in his career. He has, however, failed to convert his most recent midway advantages, at the 2009 PGA Championship and this year’s U.S. Open.