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The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island was suitably outraged by the insolent dominance of the players on Thursday even as it offered them a dainty smile. On Friday it bared its fangs and bit them hard, lest they forget the true character of the monster they need to tame to lay their hands on the coveted Wanamaker Trophy. With the wind gusting at gale speeds, fear struck the caravan of golfers. At the end of a bruising day at the PGA Championship where there were just four rounds below par - Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Carl Pettersson, the overnight leader hung on for dear life to emerge the threesome with a share of the halfway lead at four under 140.
Tiger Woods seemed like the man who had rediscovered his mojo, the magic was back in his collection of wands carried by Bryon Bell. Woods could only make ten greens in regulation and yet salvaged a 71 to bring about the hope that the drought could end with a 15th major championship in the offing on Sunday. The elements were rough, but Woods was in no mood to allow them to keep him there. Woods made three birdies and two bogeys â€“ and if not for finding the hospitality stand on the 18th and a three putt for bogey, he would have had the outright lead. Asked about his chances, Tiger sought perspective. "I've been in this position many times over my career," he said. "Again, we're just at the halfway point. We have a long way to go."
Vijay Singhâ€™s work ethic could put half the tour to shame and the Fijian is about to turn 50 in February next. The 3 time major winner hasnâ€™t had a win since 2008 and his last major came at the PGA Championship eight years ago. In probably one of the finest rounds of golf in his career, Vijay made light of the brutal 45kmph winds and the difficult course to score a 69 that made his colleagues drop their jaws in awe of the tireless Fijian warrior. Singh leapfrogged 31 spots after a brilliant round that many thought was a timeless treasure given the conditions and the pedigree of the course. "After a while, you don't really think about your score," offered Singh, "you just think about each hole, each shot and just try not to mess up. It was one of my better rounds. I didn't strike the ball as good, but I scored really, really well. And I think that was the key."
The overnight leader Pettersson seemed to fall into the bucket that overflows with the one round wonders that populate the tour. After a superb 66 on Thursday, the Swede opened with two bogeys (10th & 12th) in his first three holes and suddenly the first round felt like a distant dream. But to his credit, the Swede steadied the boat to make the turn in 37 strokes. Birdies on the first and third holes saw him improve to 7 under and tower over the field, but he spoilt his party by making three straight bogies to slip back into a share of the lead.
The first round saw as many as 89 players do par or better, 24 of them in the 60s. Compare that with Fridayâ€™s numbers and you will begin to appreciate the enormity of Singhâ€™s brilliance. After the second round there were a mere 14 players remaining with scores of par or better and Singh was the only man to break 60. If the Fijian can bottle it all and keep it going for the next two days, he could emerge the oldest winner in major championship history. It was in 1968 at the PGA Championship, that the late Julius Boros assumed that mantle as a 48 year old.
The other two men to break par were Ian Poulter and Phil Mickelson. Leftie had a disappointing 73 under the benign in the opening round, but made up for it on Friday. A 71 that included three birdies helped Mickelson climb 55 spots into a group of four players on even par at the halfway stage. Keeping him company are Graeme McDowell, Peter Hanson and Tim Clark. Poulterâ€™s quest to gain the attention of his Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal is gaining wind â€“ back to back bogeys at the 5th and 6th appeared to wreck his day, but the Scot kept his head to gain three strokes and but for a bogey on the 18th would have had a share of the lead going into what promises to be a weekend filled with excitement.
Rory McIlroy followed up his 67 on Thursday with a 75, but on a tormented day that was enough for the Irishman to remain in the conversation at two under alongside Welshman Jamie Donaldson in a tie for fifth, just two strokes off the pace.
Jeev Milka Singh has the weekend off, after failing to make the cut. He finished at 15 over, adding an 83 to his first round 76. World No.1 Luke Donald sneaked through at six over, the exact point at which the axe fell this weekend.
The weather promises to be rough for the weekend, leaving us with what promises to be one of the most exciting weekends in prospect at a major championship in recent memory. Fasten your belts, and enjoy the rough ride â€“ there is a 40% chance of rain amidst 20kmph winds, a combination that should make the golfers work hard for their stripes.
-4: Woods (US), Singh (Fij), Pettersson (Swe)
-3: Poulter (Eng)
-2: Donaldson (Wal), McIlroy (NI)
-1 : Baddeley (Aus), Scott (Aus), Adams (US), Immelman (SA), Hanson (Swe)
E - McDowell (NI), Mickelson (US);
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