Originally created 08/19/00

PGA notebook



LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If this was Jack Nicklaus' final appearance at the PGA Championship, the Golden Bear gave his fans quite a thrill Friday.

After opening with a 5-over 77 at Valhalla Golf Club, a course he designed, Nicklaus made a run at making the cut. He birdied the first two holes, but stumbled on the back nine with a pair of bogeys. On the final hole, Nicklaus almost holed his third shot on the par-5 18th. He settled for a tap-in birdie and a round of 71, leaving him four over for the tournament.

"I knew it was a good shot," said Nicklaus, who has won a record 18 professional majors. "It was a nice way to finish the tournament."

Although not all players were able to finish the second round, Nicklaus was above the projected cut.

Nicklaus has said this year would be the final time he would play all four majors in the same year. He made the cut at the Masters Tournament this spring, but missed cuts at the U.S. and British Opens.

"If I can't be good enough to compete, then there really isn't any sense for me to play," Nicklaus said. "I hate to finish on a Friday and I have the last three (majors)."

MAJOR MELTDOWN:

Former PGA champion John Daly continues to struggle, both on and off the golf course.

In position to make his first cut in a major this year, Daly imploded in the 82nd PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club. After opening with 74, the long hitter was even par through 12 holes Friday. Then his troubles began.

Starting on No. 13, Daly went double bogey, bogey, par, bogey, triple bogey and triple bogey. It added up to a 10-over 82.

Daly, who has battled alcohol and gambling problems off the course, withdrew after the first round of this year's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach after an opening 83. He also missed cuts at the Masters and British Open.

In 19 events this year, Daly has earned only $93,402. Counting the PGA, he has missed 12 cuts. His best finish is a tie for 16th at the Honda Classic.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

Should Tiger Woods win this week and match Ben Hogan's record of three consecutive victories in majors, he'll come to Augusta next spring with a chance to make even more golf history.

Nobody since Bobby Jones has won four consecutive majors did it in his Grand Slam year of 1930. In Jones' day, the U.S. and British Opens and the U.S. and British Amateurs made up golf's holy grail.

The closest anyone has come to winning four majors in a year was Hogan, who turned the trick in 1953. Hogan did not compete in the PGA that year because it conflicted with the British Open, which he won at Carnoustie.

"Bantam Ben" came close to winning four majors in a row, though. The following spring, he lost an 18-hole playoff by one stroke to Sam Snead at the Masters.

SINGH STRUGGLES:

Vijay Singh also was expected to miss the cut, shooting rounds of 77 and 71.

The reigning Masters champion never could gain any momentum, shooting a 1-over 37 on the front nine Friday. On the back nine, after a bogey on the par-5 10th, Singh birdied three of the final seven holes to make a late rally.

Winless since the Masters, Singh had put together solid showings in the majors prior to this week. He tied for eighth at the U.S. Open and tied for 11th at the British Open.

Singh was paired with Woods and Nicklaus the first two rounds.

FORMIDABLE FIELD:

With 91 of the top 100 players entered, this week's PGA Championship ranks as the second toughest field in golf history. Using the World Golf Ranking, this year's PGA amassed 764 rating points.

Last year's PGA at Medinah is ranked as the top field of all time with 787 points, including 92 of the top 100 players.

The 1999 Masters Tournament, with 738 points, is ranked 10th on the all-time list. This year's Masters had 733 points, ranking it ahead of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which had 713. The British Open, held last month at St. Andrews, had 741 points.

CASUALTIES:

Rocco Mediate, who won last week's Buick Open, had to withdraw from the tournament Friday. On Thursday, the chair Mediate was sitting on collapsed and he injured his neck, shoulder and back. He shot a first-round 77.

Tom Lehman, who posted a 10-over 82 in the opening round, also withdrew Friday. A sore knee kept him from continuing play. And Jim Carter and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw also pulled out. Carter and Crenshaw, who shot 85 and 83 respectively, gave no reason for withdrawing.

CHIP SHOTS:

Mark Brooks, who won the PGA when it was held at Valhalla in 1996, posted rounds of 78-71 to miss the cut ... Artist LeRoy Neiman, whose work is famous the world over, was stretched out Friday near the first tee at Valhalla. The mustachioed Neiman was smoking a cigar and sketching players ... The par-5 second hole is playing the easiest this week at Valhalla. On Thursday, it yielded four eagles. On Friday, Craig Stadler and Greg Chalmers made eagles.

Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or jboyette@augustachronicle.com.