Friday, August 15
Andrade making the most of second chance
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Everybody keeps saying Phil Mickelson is flying under the radar here at the PGA Championships.
He's got nothing on Billy Andrade.
That includes position on the leaderboard after 36 grueling holes at Oak Hill CC. Andrade, who's 1-under, is two shots out of the lead, held by Shaun Micheel. Mickelson, who shot 75 on Friday, is four shots back.
That Andrade is among the leaders this week is vintage "above-the-radar" stuff. He has had a perfectly dreadful year, winning just $291,000 in 20 tournaments and missing eight cuts. He hasn't finished higher than a tie for 52nd since May.
Andrade wasn't even supposed to be here. He was the seventh alternate for the event as recently as two weeks ago, and the third alternate before Davis Love III won The International last weekend, moving Andrade to second on the list.
Andrade, at home in Georgia, went to the Capital City Club (site of the American Express Championship in late September) to hit some balls Monday. He turned off his cell phone to play and got two calls in two minutes -- one saying Larry Nelson was pulling out with a sore hip, the next saying Hidemichi Tanaka, the next alternate, didn't want his spot.
Andrade picked up his messages, said yes immediately, and hopped on a plane.
"There's a reason why I'm here," Andrade said. "I don't know why, but a lot of circumstances happened for me to get in. You know what, if I'm here, let's make the best of this opportunity."
Not knowing what to expect from himself, he shot 67 late in the afternoon Thursday. It was overshadowed by Mickelson's blistering 66 earlier in the day and a power outage that blanketed the Northeast.
He spent Thursday night in a Rochester-area hotel without electricity, armed only with a flashlight and thoughts of his round.
"It was kind of cool," he said. "Everybody was just kind of camping out. That bar was open, so some guys were having a good time.
"When it's dark and you're alone, all you could do is go to sleep, so that's what I did," he said.
He played early Friday and shot 72. It was overshadowed by the fact that Oak Hill was chewing up the world's best players and spitting them out.
"I know one thing," he said after his round. "When they see my name on the leaderboard at 1-under, I don't think they are scared. OK?"
They may not be scared. But they're aware. The field came back to Andrade in the afternoon, as only Micheel broke par. Andrade's 72 looked better and better.
So did his chances to win a first major. He has won four times on the PGA Tour, most recently at Las Vegas in 2000.
"I played the best I could play for two days, and I can't wait for tomorrow," Andrade said.
Andrade will be in the final group Saturday, paired with Micheel.
"Ben Curtis proved at the British Open (that) anything's possible," Andrade said. "You know, I like my chances after 36 holes. When I get in this position, I kind of thrive on it. I'm going to go for it. I've got nothing to lose, and I'm looking forward to the challenge this weekend."
Andrade hopes to get into the AmEx event at the course where he's a member. He'd have to climb into the top 50 in the World Golf Ranking or be the leading money winner on the PGA Tour at the time. Coming into the week, he was 126th in the rankings. He was 135th on the money list, about $4.9 million behind Davis Love III.
Hitting balls Monday at the Crabapple Course, Andrade took a few minutes to think about what it would take to earn his way in.
"They're putting up some grandstands for the tournament," he said. "You get itchy. I would like to be here
I want to get back in those All-Star games, you bet. The way to do it is to play better."
For 36 holes, he has. And he's on everybody's radar.
David Kraft is a senior editor at ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org