Thursday, August 14
Down and out at the PGA
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Tiger Woods
is fond of saying you don't win majors on Thursday, but you can lose them.
|Rod Pampling, who shot 66, is one of the few players who had a good day.|
So what exactly does his 4-over-par 74 in the first round of the PGA Championship mean?
Or, for that matter, what do the 75s of Kenny Perry
, David Toms
and Ben Curtis
mean? The 77s of Retief Goosen
and Scott Verplank
? The 78 of Thomas Bjorn
? The 82s of defending champ Rich Beem
and Colin Montgomerie
, for the love of John Jacob (who shot 87 and mercifully withdrew)?
Some of the biggest names in the field took it on the chin on an otherwise delightful Thursday. All of them are at least eight shots behind co-leaders Phil Mickelson
and Rodney Pampling, both of whom shot 66s
Did they play themselves right out of the tournament?
"Tomorrow is a new day," Woods said in brief comments before repairing to the range and then his rented house, where he no doubt had words of a more choice nature.
How choice? Woods played in a threesome with Toms and Beem, who have 10 major titles between them. The three of them were 21 over par Thursday morning.
"We weren't a whole lot of fun to watch," Toms said.
Oak Hill wasn't easy in the opening rounds -- only 13 players broke par. Every hole on the course played over par -- the most notable villain being the 495-yard par-4 17th, which played nearly two-thirds of a stroke higher than par.
Bogeys and worse outnumbered birdies 4-to-1.
Toms had three double-bogeys in his first eight holes. Curtis had two. Darren Clarke
opened double-bogey, triple-bogey. Stewart Cink
was even through 11 holes, then made five bogeys and two doubles to shoot 79. David Duval
made three doubles and shot 80.
All household names. All in major trouble.
"It's tough to play catch-up at major championships because the courses seem to progressively get more difficult as the week goes on," said Mickelson from the safety of the top of the leaderboard. "You want to take advantage of it on Thursday and Friday."
History supports that, at least at the PGA. The winner rarely comes from the back of the pack.
Beem was 22nd after 18 holes a year ago but rallied to tie for first after two rounds. Toms was never lower than a tie for second at the end of any round in '01. Woods led wire-to-wire at Valhalla in 2000.
Payne Stewart was eight shots back (and tied for 77) after 18 holes when he won the 1989 PGA at Kemper Lakes. Other than that, no one lower than a tie for 47th has won since the event went to stroke play in 1958.
With that as a backdrop, Woods, who has made 109 straight cuts (the record is 113), is in 58th place. Perry, Toms and Curtis are 77. Goosen, Verplank and Cink can't even crack the top 100.
Only the top 70 and ties play the weekend.
Their comeback recipe is relatively simple; make a few birdies and hope the players ahead of you -- however many that may be -- make a lot of bogeys.
The course won't get any easier -- the moisture from 3-plus inches of rain was sucked away by a blazing late-summer sun and the fairways, which held some errant drives, won't anymore. That brings the 5-inch thick rough more into play.
Woods once made up eight shots in the final round to win at Pebble Beach. And Pampling shot a second-round 86 after leading after the opening round and missed the cut at the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie.
It cuts both ways. But not often. No one has come back from more than eight shots down after the first round to win the PGA.
"You know by the end of the week, it's going to be tough just to try and stay in the red
(numbers) or even par," Woods said. "(You need to) get it back just slowly but surely."
Woods said "surely." The official press notes of the interview said "surly."
Freudian? Maybe -- but given what happened to some of the leading names in the game Thursday, maybe not.
David Kraft is a senior editor for ESPN.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.