Scoring at a premium at PGA Championship

Thursday, Aug 7, 2008 9:51 PM
Last updated Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 11:51 AM
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BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -– The PGA Championship looked a lot like the U.S. Open, with only seven players under par when darkness finally covered Oakland Hills on Thursday and put "The Monster" to sleep.

It sounded like a U.S. Open, too.

"There's only one guy who's going to like this place by the end of the week," Ben Curtis said.

Jeev Milkha Singh and Robert Karlsson found it agreeable enough after each shot 2-under-par 68 in the pleasant morning conditions, before thunderstorms stopped play for 90 minutes in the afternoon. Andres Romero, of Argentina, was 2-under through 16 holes, the only late starter under par and among 18 players who did not finish the first round.

Kenny Perry finished the round, but he won't finish the tournament. Playing in a major for the first time this year, Perry withdrew after 79 because of an eye injury.

The calendar says August. It sure seemed like June, with firm fairways, thick rough, hard greens and plenty of opinions.

"A great test of golf and patience," Singh said.

"It was a real beast today," said Ernie Els, who overcame a double bogey after the rain delay to shoot 71.

It was easy to lose patience on a course that was punishing from the opening tee shot to the final putt. The rough is the thickest for a U.S. major this year, the Donald Ross greens at Oakland Hills are as frightening as those at Augusta National Golf Club, and the scoring chipped away at the PGA Championship's recent reputation as being the major to make birdies.

"The course is 7,500 yards long, the greens are firm and the pins are tucked away," Lee Westwood said after finishing with six consecutive pars to salvage 77. "They are sucking the fun out of the major championships when you set it up like that.

"I sound as if I'm moaning – which I am – but it's a great shame," he said. "It's a fantastic golf course. They are great greens, and they are playable. But there is no need to play it as it is."

Such comments typically are reserved for a U.S. Open, and the similarities didn't stop there. The rough is so thick that players rarely reached the green after missing the fairway, and caution was required for every putt on greens that became so crispy in pleasant sunshine that tournament officials hosed down three of them throughout the day.

Even so, the best golf was rewarded.

Sergio Garcia struck the ball solid as ever, holed one long putt, limited his mistakes, and joined a group at 69 that included Billy Mayfair, Ryder Cup hopeful Sean O'Hair and Ken Duke.

Phil Mickelson was in three bunkers before he reached his second green (No. 11) and was 2-over at that point but somehow managed 70. He made only eight pars, but among his five birdies was a 35-foot putt down the scary slope on the 16th, followed by a 4-iron that rolled within 18 inches for a birdie on the 238-yard 17th.

"I'm just happy to have shot even-par today," he said.

Anthony Kim overcame five bogeys with an eagle on the par-5 second hole that carried him to 70, joining the likes of former U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, Rod Pampling and Michael Allen, the last alternate into the field.

Brian Gay, a former Louisville, Ga., resident, opened with even-par 70 and stands tied for eighth place. Augusta native Charles Howell had 72, while former Augusta State golfers Vaughn Taylor, of Evans, and Oliver Wilson, of England, opened with 78.

Karlsson, the only player to finish in the top 10 at all three majors this year, opened the fourth one with a shot that bounded off a cart path over the first green and led to double bogey. He answered with three consecutive birdies and reached 4-under for his round until missing the green for bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15 and settling for 68.

How does someone start with a double bogey and not lose his cool, much less his mind?

"Try to remember that I actually can play golf, even though it didn't look like that on the first hole," Karlsson said. "My caddie said, 'Remember, we played with Tiger in the U.S. Open.' And I think he took 6 down the first hole pretty much every day. So you can shoot a good round from here as well."


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