PGA Championship notes: Tiger Woods in contention, but he could have been closer
By the time Tiger Woods arrived at the 28th golf hole he’d played Saturday, he was bushed.
He’d stirred his own emotions and that of the huge galleries at Bellerive Country Club by finishing out the rain-delayed second round of the PGA Championship with a four-under-par 66.
Then the 42-year-old Woods went back out and opened the third round with five birdies in the first eight holes. At that point, he was in second place and creating a buzz that only he can.
When he reached the green at the par-five 17th in two shots, an eagle could have put Woods in the final group Sunday — another milestone in his comeback.
But an older Woods teases more than he delivers, and not only did he motor his first putt four feet past the hole, he missed the comebacker for birdie.
It was a critical mistake in his otherwise impressive, second straight 66.
With Woods at eight under overall, he was tied with five players, four of them major winners, four back of leader Brooks Koepka. At one shot better, he would have had only two players ahead of him to overcome to win his 15th major title and first in more than 10 years.
“I thought I played really clean cards, really clean rounds,” Woods said. “And I just wish I could have got myself a couple more shots closer to the lead. Especially with 17, the way it’s playing.”
The tee on 17 was moved up to 550 yards to give the players a chance to go for the green in two, and they did so in large numbers. There were three eagles and 42 birdies among 80 players.
Woods acknowledged that mental fatigue might have played a role in the three-putt at 17.
“I should have played it faster than what I was thinking,” Woods said. “I didn’t do that. I rapped it past the hole and missed the putt.
“I’m definitely tired,” he said. “It’s not necessarily the physical; it’s the mentally grinding that hard for 29 holes in this heat. It was a long day.”
Fowler toughs it out
Playing with a strained muscle on his right side, Rickie Fowler is hanging tough.
He was forced to hit from the deep rough on numerous occasions Saturday in playing 26 holes, but still managed to post 67 in the second round and 69 in the third.
In a trio of players trying to win their first major, Fowler joined Gary Woodland and Jon Rahm in a tie for third place, three shots behind Koepka.
“Luckily, it hasn’t gotten worse,” Fowler said of the injury he said he first suffered last week. “It’s stayed pretty much the same throughout the week. There’s probably not a whole lot of golf in my future next week.”
Finau’s wild ride
Tony Finau may have earned himself a captain’s pick on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with a second round he summed up in one word: “nuts.”
In the round that started Friday and finished Saturday morning, Finau made 10 birdies — along with a triple bogey — in shooting 66. He did so playing with Jim Furyk, the U.S. captain for next month’s showdown with Europe in Paris.
It might be tough for Furyk to pass up a player who can be so explosive.
Asked about Furyk’s reaction to his play, Finau said, “He didn’t say anything, but he was just shaking his head. … For sure it was the craziest round I think he’s ever seen.”
Finau’s third round was ho-hum for him: four birdies and three bogeys for 69. He stood at one under overall, tied for 57th.
Matt Wallace, a two-time winner on the European Tour this year, produced an enormous roar in the gallery when he made a hole in one at the 16th. The 28-year-old Englishman used a five-iron for a seemingly monstrous par-three at 232 yards.
“Best shot of my life, probably,” Wallace said. “In front of a few thousand people on one hole; in front of Jordan [Spieth]. My caddie Dave [McNeilly] finally picked a good club for me.
“I flushed it right into my zone. And we can’t see where it lands into the shade, but when it landed the crowd started cheering. And then it rolled in, and they went mental, and it kind of reverberated back to the tee, and then I just went crazy. So, yeah, a special day for me.”
After Wallace retrieved his ball from the cup, he kissed it and chucked in into the stands.
“People were, like, oh that’s a stupid move,” Wallace said. “But I threw it in and then I met the guy after that hole and signed it for him. He said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want it back?’ and I said, ‘You keep that mate.’ I keep the balls that I win with on the mantle piece, so that one will just live in my memory.”
The ace was the 26th in the PGA Championship since they began keeping records in 1983.
Mickelson’s sour finish
As easy as the course played for many, it was shockingly challenging for Phil Mickelson. He made only three more birdies (six) than double bogeys (three) in 36 holes, shot 73-71 and missed the cut by four shots.
It was the second straight year Mickelson failed to go four rounds in the PGA after he’d made 21 consecutive cuts. The 48-year-old’s performances in the four majors this year were a disappointment. He tied for 36th in the Masters, 48th in the U.S. Open and 24th in the British Open. He will have to be a captain’s pick to play in the Ryder Cup.
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