Woods tips his cap to the gallery after sinking a birdie
putt on the 16th green during the second round of the 91st
PGA Championship at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in
CHASKA, Minn. — Whether it was the
annihilation at the '97 Masters or the rout at Pebble Beach, Tiger
Woods' highlight reel at the majors is well known. Ditto for when he
just didn't have it, like that British Open last month.
But has there ever been a time, Woods
was asked, that he, well, choked?
Woods thought for all of about a
nanosecond, then shook his head no.
"If Tiger plays the golf he's
capable of on the weekend," Padraig Harrington said,
"he'll be a winner."
Sure looks that way.
Woods separated himself from the pack
with a run of three straight birdies on the back nine at the PGA
Championship, finishing with a four-shot lead. It's his largest
margin after two rounds at a major since the 2005 British Open at
St. Andrews, when he led by five.
Oh, and when he's the 36-hole leader
at a major? Yeah, 8-0.
"There's a long way to go,"
Yes and, theoretically, anything can
happen, especially if the wind gusts like it did Friday. But he came
to Hazeltine National having won his last two tournaments and he
appears to be hitting his stride.
Conditions Friday were tough, with
swirling winds playing with putts and turning the greens bumpier
than a dirt country road. Other players made runs, a few even
climbing into a share of the lead. One by one they dropped away,
while the opportunistic Woods picked his spots on his way to a
2-under 70. Of the top 16 players going into the second round, he
was the only one to break par.
Vijay Singh (72), U.S. Open champion
Lucas Glover (70) and Brendan Jones (70), the Australian whom Woods
beat in his return to competition in February at Match Play, all
played in the morning. Harrington and Ross Fisher, who closed with
two bogeys for a 68 to fall out of the lead, had to cope with the
fierce conditions of the afternoon.
Phil Mickelson, who has played
sparingly this summer as his wife and mother battle breast cancer,
struggled on the greens again and had to wait most of the day to
find out he made the cut on the number.
"You're going to make bogeys,
you're going to make mistakes out there today. Sometimes it's going
to be your fault, sometimes it's going to be bad timing on the
wind," Woods said. "You just limit those mistakes somehow
and if you have an opportunity to take advantage of it and make a
birdie, you can't afford to miss those opportunities."
Woods made a 12-footer to save par on
No. 12, avoiding his second bogey in three holes. Then, just as
Fisher claimed a share of the lead, he made his move.
Tees on the 14th hole had been moved
up because of the wind, shortening it to a measly 299 yards. That's
like a putt-putt hole for Woods, who drove the green with a 3-wood.
He nearly holed his 35-footer from the fringe for eagle, dropping to
his knees when it stopped mere inches from the hole.
He hit another 3-wood through the
green on the par-5 15th, chipping to tap-in range. He finished the
run with a 20-foot birdie on 16, a putt that sure seemed like a
"Personally, I'd love the
challenge," Fisher said. "What better way to test yourself
than playing against the best player in the world by a country mile?
That will show you where your game is at. Right now, my game is in
really, really good shape."
Brave talk. Except that Fisher had a
chance to turn up the heat on Woods on Friday and fell apart.
Fisher had the round of the day
through the first 16 holes, bogey-free and 6 under (4 under was the
best round of the day). But his tee shot on 17 landed in the heavy
stuff on a downslope off the green, and he ran his 15-footer to save
par past the hole.
His drive on 18 sprinted through a
trap and just into the rough, giving him a tough shot from an
awkward stance. He found more rough on the opposite side of the
fairway, and wound up with a tough up-and-down that he couldn't
"I think he's in a good
position," Harrington said. "The reason he's a good
front-runner is he can pick and choose his shots, and he's not been
pushed into shots that he doesn't have to hit. And he's very good at
He has never lost any tournament when
leading by four shots going into the weekend.
"In fairness to Tiger, that's
not going to last forever. Maybe he'll be 60 when it's broken, but
it's not going to last forever," Harrington said of Woods' 8-0
streak at the majors. "Maybe I'll be the guy who does it. I
suppose that's the way to look at it."
At least Harrington can say he had
the shot of the day Friday, one Woods called "worth the price
Not only was he in the bunker off the
tee on 15, his ball was on an uphill slope, 301 yards to the green.
He pounded a perfect 3-wood — nearly falling over because of the
unbalanced lie — and the ball took a big hop over a greenside
bunker, rolled through the rough and onto the green.
It stopped 15 feet from the cup.
"He did say to me actually he
would have paid to have seen it," Harrington said. "So I
asked him for 50 bucks."
That could be the closest anyone gets
to taking anything away from Woods this week.