Just hang on.
That’s all the late afternoon groups were doing on Friday evening at what has to be one of the toughest PGA Championship setups in recent memory.
Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Sean O’Hair, Ken Duke and Aaron Baddeley all made an quick-strike assault on the top of the leaderboard early in their second rounds on Friday.
But as the day wore on, as the steady breeze made for U.S. Open-type greens and fairways, The Monster that is Oakland Hills decided to bite back, leveling each player as he tried to come in on what is one of the toughest, most penal back nine major championship golf has seen.
Lefty was tied for the lead at 1 under when he left the fifth green with a birdie, but fell apart on the last third of his round, bogeying three of his last five holes to limp in at 3 over for the championship and four strokes off the lead set by early-finisher J.B. Holmes. Garcia fought his way to a back-nine 38 to hang on at 2 over, while Baddeley couldn’t escape two bogeys of his own on the back nine. Duke and O’Hair each had 38s to close their back nines and tumbled down the leaderboard.
That said, none of these guys are far off. Holmes is the only player under par, and just three players are even. Two of those three, Ben Curtis and Justin Rose, capped their brilliant 67s on Friday before Mickelson even teed off.
Take Brandt Snedeker, whose steady morning-round of 71, with three bogeys and two birdies, left him with his second straight 71 and at 2 over for the championship. When he finished his round, he was five shots back and tied for 25th. When he tees off on Saturday, he’ll be only three strokes behind, tied for seventh and in one of the championship’s final six pairings.
It’s anybody’s contest at this point, even for a guy like Mickelson, who has shown in both rounds that he’s capable of stringing together some pretty amazing golf. But then his swing gets loose and the greens get hard, and that’s a pretty bad combination. But the way things are going, should he throw a 70 up there on Saturday, he may find himself in the final group of Sunday.
It’s that kind of major again. Only one player will be happy when the tournament is over, and he’ll be the winner in name only.
That’s because we all know who the true champion will be on Sunday: The Monster.