Commentary

Three Up, Three Down: It's not how you start, it's how you finish

Originally Published: August 8, 2008
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Leading after the first round of any golf tournament is like leading after the first quarter of an NBA game: It's better than the alternative … but it really doesn't mean anything.

Don't believe it? Quick: Name the three opening-round co-leaders at last month's British Open. No, it wasn't eventual winner Padraig Harrington, runner-up Ian Poulter or headline-grabbing Greg Norman. (The answer: Robert Allenby, Rocco Mediate and Graeme McDowell, who finished T-7, T-19 and T-19, respectively.)

Moral of the story: Starting strong means nothing if you can't follow it up. By the same token, even those who began with disappointing results can still work their way into contention.

Let's explore those who tested these theories in the opening rounds of the 90th PGA Championship in this edition of Three Up, Three Down.

Three Up
1. Ben Curtis and Justin Rose

Why are two of the three players in second place grouped together? Because they posted identical scores of 73-67 in the first two rounds.

"You wake up and every day's different," Curtis said. "You see guys that are playing really good and they wake up the next morning and it's all of a sudden another ballgame."

It was quite the opposite for these two guys. Their second-round totals -- both of which included four birdies and only one bogey -- marked the best score so far in a tournament that has been devoid of many red numbers.

"Obviously, today I'm ecstatic with that round of golf; 3 under par in those conditions was more than I could have hoped for," Rose said. "I know Ben Curtis shot 3 under, too, but the average score today is going to be very, very high and guys are going to have a hard time."

On a day when the scoring average was 74.85, Curtis and Rose bested the mean by nearly 8 strokes.

2. Paul Goydos

With a Long Beach State Dirtbags cap plopped on his head and a frumpy look on his face, the longtime veteran carded three birdies, 14 pars and just a single blemish -- a double-bogey on the 16th hole -- for a round of 1-under 69 that helped him leap 47 places on the leaderboard, into a share of 14th place.

Not bad for a player who, one day earlier, said of the redesigner of this Donald Ross track: "If you had Rees Jones redo Scrabble, he'd leave out the vowels."

3. Mark Brown

The biggest mover on Moving Day Eve was this little-known Kiwi who plays exclusively on the European Tour.

Following up his opening-round 77 with a 69, Brown climbed 75 spots to prove the theory once again: As we explained, a poor start on the scorecard doesn't necessarily equate to misery at a major championship.

Three Down
1. Andres Romero and Billy Mayfair

Why are these two players, both at T-48, grouped together? Because they posted identical scores of 69-78 in the first two rounds.

"The rough was very tough and the greens are quick, so you have to be patient, and luckily I was," Romero said after completing his suspended first round Friday morning. "I had the advantage that I hit very good tee shots and didn't hit the rough very often."

His advantage turned into a disadvantage in Round 2, as Romero found the short stuff only four times in 14 tries, and saw his scorecard really swell on the course's final holes, as he played Nos. 16-18 in 6 over par.

As for Mayfair, the second round looked like a complete opposite to the first. After carding six birdies on Thursday, he failed to make a single red number on Day 2, instead posting six bogeys and a double. Although his ball-striking stats looked similar to those of the first round, Mayfair took an astonishing 12 more putts for a total of 35.

2. Robert Karlsson

One of two opening-round co-leaders (along with Jeev Milkha Singh), Karlsson started his second round with a bogey. And then he made another one. And another. And another. Less than an hour into his round Friday, Karlsson had dropped 4 shots by playing bogey golf.

Karlsson actually remained only 4 strokes in back of the lead through 17 holes, thanks to a pair of late birdies, but a double-bogey finish on the par-3 ninth relegated him to a 7-over 77, leaving him in a share of 26th place.

3. Rod Pampling

In some respects, Rod Pampling pulled a Rod Pampling on Friday.

The only player to have led a major championship after the opening round only to miss the cut -- at the 1999 British Open, he posted scores of 70-86 -- the Aussie suffered a similar fate at Oakland Hills.

A first-round 70 (sound familiar?) left Pampling in a share of eighth place entering Round 2, but he followed with an 81 and missed the cut by 3 strokes. For Pampling, it started bad … and only got worse. He shot a 43 for his first nine holes (the back nine of the course), then countered with a 38 that included just a lone birdie.

Jason Sobel covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.


Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.