Commentary

Jason Sobel's live blog

Originally Published: August 13, 2009
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

(All times ET)

8 p.m.: Entering the opening round of the PGA Championship here at Hazeltine National GC, all the talk was about this behemoth of a golf course, which at 7,674 yards is the longest in major championship history. Just check out what some of the big names had to say:

Colin Montgomerie: "The golf course, as everyone states, is a fabulous one -- a very fair one and a very long one."

Steve Stricker: "The course is in good shape. It's long."

Stewart Cink: "It's monster long. Just long. So many long holes."

Tiger Woods: "It's a heckuva lot longer than what we played in 2002."

Sergio Garcia: "It's really long. There's no doubt about that."

Lee Westwood: "The golf course is very good. Long, as everybody has suggested."

Of course, much of that length came in the form of Hazeltine's four par-5 holes, three of which are longer than 600 yards on the scorecard. During Thursday's opening round, though, that length didn't equate to difficulty. Let's examine the numbers:

• No. 3 (633 yards): 5.077 scoring average. Rank: 12

• No. 7 (572 yards): 4.699 scoring average. Rank: 18

• No. 11 (606 yards): 5.058 scoring average. Rank: 13

• No. 15 (642 yards): 5.019 scoring average. Rank: 15

That's right. Each of the four par 5s played among the seven easiest holes of the day.

Just goes to show that no matter how much the PGA of America has stretched these out, there are still birdies to be made.

That will wrap up the Live Blog for today. Thanks for all the questions and comments. Back for Round 2 at 9 a.m. ET. Until next time, hit 'em straight. …

7:37 p.m.: Phil Mickelson two-putts for par on No. 18 to shoot 2-over 74.

In a share of 67th place, is he out of it? No ... but he'll need a score of 67 or 68 to get back into the mix on Friday. With scoring conditions likely better in the morning, that's very possible.

7:34 p.m.: Looks like John Daly's back injury may be the real deal.

From today's edition of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, courtesy of Barry in Parts Unknown:

For the better part of seven hours, John Daly chain-smoked Marlboros, guzzled Diet Coke and interacted with Minnesotans who gawked at his lime-green shirt and polka-dot pants during Wednesday's practice session for the 91st PGA Championship.

It was a typical practice round for Daly, the often-troubled and always-popular two-time major winner who, believe it or not, is playing in his 17th PGA Championship since shocking the golf world by winning his debut as a ninth alternate in 1991.

Typical, except for one thing: The big belly is gone. Daly has dropped more than 80 pounds since undergoing lap-band surgery in February.

He looks better and walked more swiftly during his only practice round of the week. He says his swing isn't quite what it used to be and, at 44, he's had to deal with a back injury for the first time in his career.

"I never had back problems when I was fat," said Daly, who also blamed his weight loss for that 88 he shot in the second round of the Buick Open.

Daly, who returned from a PGA Tour suspension earlier this season, said an injury suffered earlier this summer in Paris has caused his back to lock up at times. That's resulted in tee shots hooking wildly to the left.

That's what happened on the 12th tee Wednesday. His first crack at the longest par-4 (518 yards) sailed over the gallery down the left side of the fairway. "If it doesn't go good [this week], I'm not worried," Daly said. "I'm just going to go out and play, work on some things and try and manage the golf course the best I can."

In that case, JD should be commended for showing up, giving it a go and at least trying. Let's hope that back problem subsides for the remainder of the season.

7:30 p.m.: Shows how much I know. Phil Mickelson hits one eerily reminiscent of his shot to win at Colonial last year, dropping one from out of the trees onto the green.

He'll have a decent birdie opportunity from there.

7:24 p.m.: Phil Mickelson comes to the 18th tee box having hit only 6 of 13 fairways so far. And ... now he's 6-for-14.

Lefty goes way right, through the rough and past the gallery. He'll have some work to do just to save par and come in with an opening 2-over 74.

7:17 p.m.: In a dozen previous major championship rounds this season, Vijay Singh owned only two sub-70 scores.

Make that 3-for-13.

Singh shot a 3-under 69 -- tied for the best score among the late guys so far -- and spoke with TNT after the round:

"I haven't been putting well all year, and I've been struggling with my game," he said, "but I've worked really hard in the past month and it's helping with my game."

Asked whether anything changes when Tiger Woods is atop the leaderboard, Singh said, "You just have to play your own game, have to be in your own head," before meandering into comments about course conditions.

World-class golfer. World-class topic-changer.

7:06 p.m.: After shooting 76 today, John Daly has withdrawn because of a back injury.

Two thoughts regarding this development ...

If he really is injured, I obviously retract those earlier comments about his lack of effort on the course today. In fact, it was pretty cool that he stuck it out and kept competing.

If he's not really injured but simply conjuring up a back injury to avoid playing another round here, that's pretty sad. Says a lot about him as a competitor.

I'd love to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe it's the former, but with Daly's track record that's not a given.

If/when he speaks to the media about his withdrawl, I'll pass along the comments.

6:59 p.m.: As the defending champ here in 2002, David Toms wasn't very happy about playing at Hazeltine -- or with his chances against playing partners Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.

"To be honest with you, those two guys I played with today, I'm not in their league," Toms said. "I could sit here and tell you that right here. On the par-3 [13th], that's a 204-yard hole and they're hitting 6- and 7-irons straight in the air and dropping them on the green close to the hole. I'm somehow trying to finagle a 4- iron and run it up there to the green."

Today, Toms is 3-under with three holes to play ... and yes, he birdied the 13th hole.

6:46 p.m.: Ian Poulter is currently 2-under through 16 holes. Based on the struggles of his fellow tweeters, he may want to play very cautiously over the final two holes.

That's because @Paul_Casey and @TrevorImmelman each WD'd with injuries; @CamiloVillegas made seven bogeys en route to a 1-over 73; @StuartAppleby shot 74; @stewartcink is 2-over; @Love3D is 4-over; and @PGA_JohnDaly shot 76.

Like I said, tread cautiously, @Ianjamespoulter.

6:41 p.m.: Yikes. I think someone should have gotten John Daly a few hot dogs at the turn.

Daly just finished with a four-putt on his final hole to shoot a 6-over 78. When he shot 10 strokes worse two weeks ago at Warwick Hills, he said afterward that he tried hard the entire time. That didn't seem to be the case this time, as he spent all of a half-second over some of those late-round putts.

I'll never say John Daly is done, because he's the type of guy who can come out of nowhere and shock the world on any given week. That said, his game looks like it's in disarray right now. Not playing well is one thing, but not making the effort is much worse -- and it's marred much of his career.

6:34 p.m.: E-mail from Thomas in Louisville:

What's the record for consecutive rounds played together? TW and Paddy are playing three together through tomorrow and are topping the leaderboard. Could we see them paired for five consecutive rounds?

I guarantee the PGA Tour doesn't keep track of these statistics, but I'd be willing to bet the record is more than five.

Will it happen? Way too early to say, but I highly doubt it. Remember: Even if just one of them is tied at the end of the second or third round, it's possible they would be split up to play in different tee times, just based on the numbers game.

And I know I've made plenty of "on the clock" jokes today, but in all seriousness if Paddy wasn't such a nice guy, guys would dread playing with him because he's so slow out there. Tiger seems to enjoy his company, though.

6:28 p.m.: Now we're starting to see a few guys climb the leaderboard.

David Toms holes a long putt for birdie on 14. Vijay Singh hits an absolute dart to within inches on 16.

And they're each now at 3-under-par, two shots behind Tiger Woods' lead.

Don't be surprised if one of them is atop the leaderboard by the time Tiger tees off No. 1 tomorrow.

6:26 p.m.: More struggles for John Daly.

Hits one to pin-high, just off the green on the par-3 eighth hole ... then duffs his chip and three-putts.

He's now 4-over with one hole to play.

6:16 p.m.: Tweet, tweet ...

cjzero@jasonsobel I think it's time to answer the question... Did John Daly get a free bowl of soup with those pants?

Oh, they look good on him, though.

Seriously, though, JD doesn't have soup anymore. Too fattening. Diet Coke and a pack of cigs for every meal. The breakfast of champions.

6:10 p.m.: Best score of the afternoon is now 2-under, coming from a trio of heavy hitters in Geoff Ogilvy, Vijay Singh and Ian Poulter.

The good news for the 78 guys going through the more difficult conditions right now? They'll have a chance to post a number tomorrow morning, then sit back in their hotel rooms and watch the other wave come back to 'em throughout the afternoon.

So just because many of these players are well off the pace right now, don't start thinking they're out of contention.

5:54 p.m.: E-mail from Jeff in Parts Unknown:

Phil Mickelson's body language is horrid. Given what he's dealing with at home, should he even be out here? It's painful to watch.

I don't get it. Because he's frustrated with his round of 2-over through 11 holes -- during increasingly difficult afternoon conditions, no less -- he shouldn't be here?

Look, we've all had a family member who was sick at some point. And we've all had to go back to work after a while, too. Is he expected to be at the pinnacle of his game after seven weeks off going into last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational? Maybe not. But that's not a reason to stay home, either.

I just don't get that notion. At all.

5:45 p.m.: Adam Scott and Will MacKenzie are each avid surfers. Right now, they're each hanging 10 on the board.

That would be 10-over on the leaderboard.

Wipeout.

5:37 p.m.: The leader of the afternoon wave is Soren Kjeldsen, now 3-under through 11 holes.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Kjeldsen: He's 34, 5-foot-7, from Denmark and owns four Euro Tour victories. And he once ran a marathon. Once.

From his player bio: "[In 1997], he achieved a highly respectable time of three hours and 54 minutes. Has not run one since, saying, 'Once was enough for me. I try to stay in good shape, but not as extreme as that.' "

5:24 p.m.: Speaking of Ernie Els, his three-year plan to challenge Tiger Woods for the world's No. 1 ranking is about to expire.

"I see 2007 as the start of a three-year plan where I totally re-dedicate myself to the game," he said in December, 2006. "I want to win more majors and start giving Tiger a run for his money. If you look at where he is at the top of the rankings, it's a big lead so no one is going to get near him any time soon. I've got to give myself a three-year stretch to try to approach him and I really believe I can do it."

Instead, Els has gone in the opposite direction, winning just three events worldwide (2007 South African Open, 2007 HSBC World Match Play Championship, 2008 Honda Classic), while producing these results at the majors:

• Masters: MC, MC, MC
• U.S. Open: T-51, T-14, MC
• British Open: T-4, T-7, T-8
• PGA Championship: 3, T-31, ??

That's one top-10 in eight U.S.-based major starts since 2007, including four missed cuts.

Perhaps the Big Easy should amend his three-year plan to be called the Big Impossible.

5:03 p.m.: While I still don't think there is an "intimidation factor" when Tiger Woods is on the leaderboard, I can even more safely say that he's not intimidated by much, either. (Short of Alvaro Quiros hitting into him on a monster par-5, that is.) That includes the current leaderboard, which is strong, but doesn't include many past major champions.

If my addition is correct, there are only eight former major winners amongst the 30 players currently under par. They are: Woods, Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh, David Toms, Rich Beem, Steve Elkington, Geoff Ogilvy and Corey Pavin.

That leaves 20 major champs at even-par or worse. They include: Phil Mickelson (+1 through 9), Jim Furyk (1-over 73), Retief Goosen (+1 through 7), Davis Love III (+3 through 10), Stewart Cink (+3 through 9) and Ernie Els (+4 through 10).

4:51 p.m.: Nice round so far for Vijay Singh. The Big Fijian posted three birdies on the front nine and just made the turn at 2-under-par.

I asked the 46-year-old Singh last week whether watching Tom Watson at Turnberry has provided more inspiration for continuing to play well late in his career.

"Well, that's another little factor now," he said. "I'll be saying, 'Gosh, I'll be playing until I'm 55, you know.' But he's a great boost to all the guys, especially if you're in your 50s. Everybody has been talking about it. I think it's great for golf. It was a second wind to a lot of people that thought they were over the hill."

Granted, Vijay is not one of those people who believed he was over the hill. Hampered for much of this year due to early-season knee surgery, he may finally be starting to find his rhythm once again.

4:44 p.m.: I don't think the heavy stuff is gonna come down for a while.

It's raining here at Hazeltine, which is unfortunate if you're stuck outside the ropes without an umbrella, but not bad if you're playing in the afternoon wave.

A little of the wet stuff should help to soften up the greens a little, enabling players to go at the flagsticks more often. We'll see if the rain leads to a few more birdies over the next half-hour or so.

4:40 p.m.: From Tim in Bloomington, Minn. (and many others, too), regarding the potential Olympians:

Just wanted to point out something about your Olympics lineup. At the Olympics, anybody from England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland is required to compete under the United Kingdom flag, meaning at least six of the people on that list wouldn't be able to compete. Rory McIlroy would be hurt the most by this, as the UK golfers in the top 15 would kick him out of the Olympics.

Good point. Unless Paul Casey's intercostal hasn't healed by then. Sorry. I just enjoy typing the word intercostal.

4:34 p.m.: Another funny one ...

someMarkFarrell@JasonSobel: what club does this Michael Campbell guy represent?

The 2005 U.S. Open champ shot an 80 today, which has him DFL of the touring pros.

Here's what he's done at each of the majors so far this year:

• Masters: 80-75-MC (+11)
• U.S. Open: 77-79-MC (+16)
• British Open: 78-WD (+8)
• PGA Championship: 80-?? (+8)

That's a combined 43-over-par in six total major rounds so far this year for an average score of 78.2.

Before you write him off, however, remember that he's been dealing with a shoulder injury for a while and has continued to play through it. In fact, I'd compare his plight to that of Todd Hamilton, who followed his British Open win in 2004 with a few years of awful golf, but has rebounded nicely. I wouldn't be surprised to see Cambo back on leaderboards in 2010 or '11.

4:26 p.m.: As the afternoon continues, it's becoming all the more apparent that Tiger Woods will still have the lead when the sun goes down.

Though the wind appears to have subsided a bit, the course is definitely playing tougher and guys in the late wave are struggling to post red numbers.

Perhaps it's just a bit of quiet retribution for TW, who was on the wrong side of the draw two months ago at Bethpage. Or maybe tomorrow's conditions will be similar, evening things out for everyone.

4:14 p.m.: You guys know the rules. Make me laugh out loud and you make the Live Blog.

ScottPaterniani@JasonSobel John Daly looks great with the weight loss; or is he now 7'6"?

You're right. Although recent reports have him losing some 80 pounds in the past few months, the real story is that JD has undergone a late growth spurt which has seen him sprout about 18 inches.

Those pants are a size 38-50.

He's currently 2-over through eight.

4:05 p.m.: With the IOC offering its recommendation of golf as an Olympic sport for the 2016 Summer Games today, the ESPN research folks put together this note on the field should the tournament be held right now. Pretty interesting stuff ...

The IGF has recommended an Olympic field of 60 players for each of the men's and women's competition, utilizing the official world golf rankings as a method of determining eligibility. The top 15 world-ranked players would be eligible for the Olympics, regardless of the number of players from a given country. Beyond the top 15, players would be eligible based on world ranking, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.

The season doesn't end today -- and the 2016 Olympics are seven years away. But just for fun, let's pretend this is an Olympic year. Here's how the men's field would shape up if we were utilizing the current world rankings:

1. Tiger Woods USA
2. Phil Mickelson USA
3. Paul Casey England
4. Kenny Perry USA
5. Steve Stricker USA
6. Sergio Garcia Spain
7. Henrik Stenson Sweden
8. Geoff Ogilvy Australia
9. Stewart Cink USA
10. Padraig Harrington Ireland
11. Jim Furyk USA
12. Vijay Singh Fiji
13. Lee Westwood England
14. Martin Kaymer Germany
15. Camilo Villegas Colombia
17. Robert Karlsson Sweden
18. Retief Goosen South Africa
26. Ernie Els South Africa
27. Angel Cabrera Argentina
28. Mike Weir Canada
29. Rory McIlroy No. Ireland
30. Robert Allenby Australia
36. Soren Kjeldsen Denmark
37. Miguel Angel Jimenez Spain
41. Jeev Milkha Singh India
43. Shingo Katayama Japan
47. Soren Hansen Denmark
49. Graeme McDowell No. Ireland
53. Thongchai Jaidee Thailand
54. Stephen Ames Canada
56. K.J. Choi Korea
59. Ryo Ishikawa Japan
66. Prayad Marksaeng Thailand
72. Andres Romero Argentina
74. Francesco Molinari Italy
85. Thomas Levet France
91. David Smail New Zealand
108. Lin Wen-Tang Taiwan
110. Yang Yong-Eun Korea
114. Danny Lee New Zealand
130. Gary Orr Scotland
135. Christian Cevaer France
160. Robert-Jan Derksen Netherlands
161. Alastair Forsyth Scotland
163. Jyoti Randhawa India
175. Shane Lowry Ireland
178. Rhys Davies Wales
186. Jamie Donaldson Wales
204. Markus Brier Austria
206. Liang Wen-Chong China
208. Edoardo Molinari Italy
209. Felipe Aguilar Chile
219. Alex Cejka Germany
261. Lam Chih Bing Singapore
284. Fabrizio Zanotti Paraguay
293. Nicolas Colsaerts Belgium
304. Roope Kakko Finland
321. Juvic Pagunsan Philippines
327. Jose-Filipe Lima Portugal
364. Iain Steel Malaysia

Can't wait to see Paraguay, Belgium and Malaysia on the medal stand.

3:58 p.m.: Lucas Glover just carded another bogey in his obvious attempt to avoid par for an entire round.

And the champions' threesome now includes three guys who are each over-par for the day.

3:51 p.m.: Not many fireworks from that 2009 major champions threesome yet.

Lucas Glover has alternated with birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey so far through four holes -- and he leads the group.

Angel Cabrera is 1-over; Stewart Cink is 3-over.

Lots of work to do if they want to match the Woods/Harrington/Beem threesome's number of 10-under combined for the day.

3:42 p.m.: After serial Twitter user Stewart Cink won the British Open, I joked that every guy on tour would sign up the next day.

Or maybe it wasn't a joke.

One of the latest players to post updates is Camilo Villegas, who has already written a few things about his round of 1-over 73.

CamiloVillegasR Just finish the first round... Not my best... Lots of stupid bogeys... Gotta work on my putting now...

CamiloVillegasR By the way... Some of the best crowds all year... Thousands of people and very polite and positive... I love it!!!

Why wouldn't they be polite? Camilo was putting on a pretty entertaining display today -- even if it wasn't all positive. Villegas carded six birdies, five pars and seven bogeys for a very Villegas-like performance.

3:28 p.m.: How well was Tiger Woods swinging it today? Try this: 12-of-14 fairways, 15-of-18 greens in regulation.

Here's some of what he had to say after the round ...

On his opening-round game: "Hank and I did some good work the last three days, and felt very comfortable with what I was doing today. Really good round today, hit a lot of good putts that just lipped out and hit the edges. It could have been a really good round today."

On his performances at the other majors this year: "You have to play well at the right time, and that's about it. I just didn't put it all together the other three major championships. The first two I was there with a chance; the last one I wasn't, but hopefully I will be this one as well."

On tomorrow's forecast of wind: "You know, with the wind blowing, it depends on which direction it comes from and how they are going to set up the golf course, but today, the par 5s could be had today, and I didn't think we could get to any of the par 5s, maybe 7, if they move the tee up, and today it was up but it was downwind."

On Alvaro Quiros hitting into his group on No. 11: "He apologized. I said,'Nothing to apologize for. That's a hell of a shot.' "

As for Quiros, here's what he had to say about it afterward: "I was trying to finish the ball on the fringe, and sadly probably the ball bounced more than we were calculating and we finished on the green when Harrington and Rich Beem and Tiger were putting. But I apologized to them on the next tee, so that is everything I can say. ... Harrington I heard, 'Good shot.' And about Tiger? Nothing. ... If I had to be honest, where I was, I can't even see them. ... I knew that they were on the green, but we thought that they were almost finishing."

3:24 p.m.: Expect things to become a little more difficult for the afternoon wave of players here at Hazeltine. The wind is starting to kick up a bit and these greens are rolling a little bit faster after baking in the sun all day.

Accordingly, only five players from the late draw are currently under par. Among them is John Merrick at 1-under, although he would be much higher as uber-golfer John Merrickallinger ... er, Mallingerrick.

3:11 p.m.: E-mail from Jonathan in Greensboro, N.C.:

I just really don't see anything "major" coming from the "2009 Major Winners" threesome this week. Over/under on the number of majors that the three major winners of 2009 will win in their careers combine: Five (including their four majors now). I will definitely take the under on that one.

I'll take the over. One more each for Stewart Cink and Lucas Glover during their careers to join Angel Cabrera with two total and make it six overall.

I've gotten a lot of questions about this being the least buzzworthy major champions grouping at the PGA in recent years. Discussed this in my Weekly 18 column earlier this week:

justinherzog@JasonSobel I'm a big Cink fan, but has there ever been a worse "previous major champions" grouping than Cabrera, Glover and Cink?

Wait a minute -- a Cink fan on Twitter? Shocking.

I hate to call this the "worst" champions' threesome, but it certainly has the lowest Q-rating. I suppose 2007 was fairly close, with Zach Johnson, Cabrera and Padraig Harrington ... but the Irishman has a pretty strong following. Maybe 2003, too, with Mike Weir, Jim Furyk and Ben Curtis ... although those first two are pretty popular guys. Or even 1998 ... though I don't recall the third player grouped with Lee Janzen and Mark O'Meara, who won two of the year's first three majors.

To answer your question, though, I think "worst" is the wrong term for it, but there will definitely be a lack of buzz surrounding this threesome at Hazeltine in comparison to the usual major winners group.

Quick postscript: The third man in that '98 group was Vijay Singh, meaning there were three guys who won multiple majors during their careers.

If you called this the least exciting major winners threesome of the last 15 years, that wouldn't be an overstatement.

3:01 p.m.: At least Daly has some company.

Adam Scott's struggles are apparently continuing today, as he's also 3-over through three holes. It's been a brutal run for the one-time phenom. Since finishing T-2 at the Sony Open in January, his best finish in 13 PGA Tour starts is a T-33 -- and he only backed into that one by losing in the opening round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

2:57 p.m.: Good news, John Daly fans: He's back!

Bad news: He's not playing well.

JD is already 3-over through three holes, going par-bogey-double to start his round. And if he continues at that pace of scoring one more over par on each hole, he'll finish with a seventeentuple-bogey on his last hole of the day for a 153-over score of 225.

All of a sudden, that second-round 88 at Warwick Hills two weeks ago doesn't look so bad, does it?

2:50 p.m.: E-mail from Steve in Tulsa:

Ultimate Blog Jinx -- brought on by his own family and friends, no less: Mitch Lowe shoots an 84 today, one shot away from DFL.

From one of those friends ...

RyanHojo@JasonSobel Admit it. You're relieved that you'll be giving pub to Kevin Roman and not #MitchLowe when referencing today's worst round.

Yep, the only thing saving Lowe man from being the high man is Roman, currently at 14-over with three holes to play.

Let's keep an eye on him. Could be an Ocho Cinco in the making.

2:41 p.m.: Tiger Woods is now the clubhouse leader with a 5-under 67 -- his best round at a major since a 63 in the second round of this event at Southern Hills two years ago.

And here's the thing: It could have been even better.

Woods hit approach shots to pin-high on each of his final three holes, but failed to convert any of the putts, missing his eagle attempt on No. 7 and birdie efforts on Nos. 8 and 9.

One more note: This is just the third bogey-free opening round of Woods' career. The other two? The 2000 U.S. Open and 2000 British Open. And yes -- he won both of those.

2:37 p.m.: Is it me or is every guy in the field except Tiger wearing a red shirt today?

Maybe they just all wanted to avoid the fate suffered by Luke Donald in the final pairing at Medinah in 2006 and Rocco Mediate at last year's U.S. Open, each of whom matched Woods' red shirt and lived to tell about it ... but lost.

2:30 p.m.: If it wasn't for the toe fungus guy, Eric in Parts Unknown might have the e-mail of the day with this one:

Everyone was saying how Firestone was a great course to prepare for Hazeltine, and looking at the leaderboard proves it. The top four at the PGA right now -- Tiger, Paddy, Mahan, and Allenby -- were in the top four at the Bridgestone last week. Expect a big day from Cabrera, who was also T-4 last week.

That's a great point. And it does speak to how Firestone sets up for this event. Even though many players are "momentum guys," it's unusual for the exact same final leaderboard from a previous Sunday to repeat itself at a major four days later.

2:27 p.m.: Blog Jinx!

C'mon, like you didn't see this one coming? I even called it!

Hunter Mahan misses the green long on No. 9, then can't get up and down, settling for his first bogey of the day to finish with a 3-under 69.

Oh well. It's was fun gloating for a few minutes at least.

2:24 p.m.: Tiger Woods for birdie on No. 8 from 15 feet ... and it just barely misses.

While he's made a few lengthy putts today, TW is clearly hitting it well. So far, he's taken 27 putts through 17 holes, which isn't a great number by any means. He's been hitting it pure for most of the day, though.

2:18 p.m.: Hunter Mahan is still at 4-under-par, playing the ninth hole -- his last of the day.

E-mail from Todd in Parts Unknown:

Speaking of Mahan, maybe the best player picture on ESPN.com. He looks like he just rolled in after a 23-hour drive home from Vegas.

I'm not saying he didn't, but ... there's a good reason for all the bad hair days on those player pictures.

It makes sense if you think about it. Players wear hats on the course. They come in for these photos, take their hats off, the picture gets snapped, they put their hats back on and go about their day.

So whether it was a 23-hour drive from Vegas or 18 holes with a hat, the end result is the same: Bad hair.

2:13 p.m.: Ho-hum. Routine two-putt birdie on No. 7 for Tiger Woods and he moves into the lead at 5-under.

Meanwhile, playing partner Padraig Harrington failed to pick up a stroke and stick with Woods, making par on that hole.

Tough draw for Rich Beem, the 2002 champ who has been made an honorary member here at Hazeltine. He's 1-under for the day, in a more-than-respectable share of 12th place ... and three shots behind the next-closest guy in his group.

2:10 p.m.: Michael Bradley has dropped a few shots and is now 2-under-par through 13. Despite his season-long struggles, though, maybe it's not so surprising that he's up there today.

Back in 1995, Bradley shot 63 in the opening round of this event, the all-time PGA record, which has happened on 10 separate occasions.

2:01 p.m.: Now THIS is a major championship leaderboard.

Four-time PGA winner Tiger Woods, defending champion Padraig Harrington and up-and-coming Hunter Mahan are currently tied for the lead at 4-under.

Of course, I'm getting plenty of e-mails regarding my pretournament ranking, but it's still early ... and I don't want to gloat ... and anything can happen.

So I'll only tell you to click on this ... and this ... and maybe this ... and just for good measure, this.

Hey, 60 percent of the time I'm wrong every time ... so might as well have fun before I jinx it.

1:48 p.m.: E-mail from Nikolaj in Denmark:

You haven't mentioned Soren Hansen yet, who currently is one stroke behind Tiger at the moment. If he goes on to win or even compete for the title this week, it would be some kind of story. It was revealed Tuesday that Hansen has been accused of tax fraud by the Danish authorities. Hansen officially lives in Monaco, but the authorities claim to have proof of him really spending most of his time in Denmark, which means that he should have paid 1.9 million dollars in taxes. In Denmark, tax fraud can be punished with up to eight years of prison, so I would say that it is quite remarkable that he is able to keep his focus on the golf game.

Hadn't heard about that, actually, but it's a pretty amazing story.

Nothing like making up for back taxes with a $1.35 million winner's check (which is what Harrington received for winning last year).

Brings up plenty of questions, too ...

Do Danish prisons have golf programs? Can "prison" be reason for a major medical extension? How much Haagen-Dazs ice cream could he have bought with that $1.9 million?

1:42 p.m.: Considering not only the fact that he has three holes remaining, but taking into account that many players haven't even teed off yet today, the following is certainly jumping the gun, but here's a look at how Tiger Woods has finished after leading or sharing the lead on Thursday night:

• 2005 British Open: Won
• 2002 U.S. Open: Won
• 2000 PGA Championship: Won
• 2000 U.S. Open: Won
• 1998 PGA Championship: T-10
• 1998 British Open: 3rd

Just to reiterate, in each of the four instances when TW has been atop the leaderboard this decade, he has turned it into a win three days later. That's impressive.

1:36 p.m.: Tiger Woods coolly sinks a 4-footer for par on No. 6 to remain at 4-under with three holes to play. Leads to this tweet ...

BucWildGuy@JasonSobel You realize that while Tiger is high on the leaderboard, in all 3 opening rounds of majors, he's collapsed the last few holes.

Great point. Let's review:

• At the Masters, he finished his opening round par-par-bogey to shoot 70.
• At the U.S. Open, he finished his opening round double bogey-bogey-par-bogey to shoot 74.
• At the British Open, he finished his opening round bogey-bogey-par-par to shoot 71.

Don't be surprised if that trend reverses in the next 30-40 minutes, though. Tiger still has to play holes 7 through 9, which are playing as the 18th, seventh and 13th hardest of the day, respectively.

1:25 p.m.: After that bogey on 18, Alvaro Quiros has bounced back with a birdie on No. 2 and is at 4-under, tied for the lead.

How long does this guy hit it? Check out this Associated Press report from the Transitions Championship earlier this year:

A waist-high net stretches across the back of the driving range at Innisbrook, some 300 yards away, mainly to keep golf balls of some of the biggest hitters from disappearing into a lake that most people don't even know is there.

Will MacKenzie was asked how far it was to the water.

"I don't know," he said on Wednesday. "But some dude with a straw hat was just out here flying it over the water."

Over the water or over the net?

"Over the water," he said, enunciating each word. "It was sick. I said to myself, 'Think I'll just work on the ol' wedge game today.' If he has a short game, we're all in trouble. Because it was pure."

The dude in the straw hat is Alvaro Quiros.

Granted, I think I've heard Willie Mac refer to half the dudes on tour as "pure," but Quiros definitely qualifies.

Good story from last Monday: While on the range at Firestone, Quiros broke out an old persimmon driver, and nearly every other player stopped what he was doing as he whacked 280-yard drives off the tee. Later said he hits that club about as far as the 5-wood that is currently in his bag.

1:17 p.m.: Since I know you're gonna ask ... Tiger's last bogey-free round at a major was a third-round 68 during last year's Masters.

That means he's gone 15 consecutive major rounds with at least one bogey -- 16 if you count the U.S. Open playoff.

Woods just made a 5-foot par save on No. 4 to keep that bogey-free possibility intact today.

1:10 p.m.: Right on cue, Tiger Woods posts a fourth birdie of the day, making a 4 on the 633-yard par-5 third hole and is now 4-under-par with six to play.

He's in a four-way tie for the lead with Michael Bradley, Robert Allenby and Alvaro Quiros.

1:06 p.m.: OK, one more Tiger stat, as I posted on Twitter yesterday ...

JasonSobel Great stat from ESPN Research Dept.: Since start of '06, Tiger Woods has a better winning percentage than 10 different MLB teams. Wow.

JasonSobel Since you asked... those 10 teams are: Marlins, Padres, M's, Rays, Giants, Reds, O's, Royals, Pirates and Nats. All lower than TW's 48.98%. In related news, Chez Reavie owned a better winning percentage than the Detroit Lions last season.

12:55 p.m.: More good stats on Tiger Woods. This comes from the PGA Tour ...

At 7,674 yards, this year's PGA Championship is the longest stroke-play course on the PGA Tour dating back to 1989. Tiger Woods has won on seven of the previous 12 longest stroke-play courses dating back to 1989. Woods did not play in three others on the list (2008 Puerto Rico, 2008 Ginn, 2009 Buick) and he finished T5 at the 2002 Buick Invitational and T10 at the 2004 Buick Invitational. Below is the list:

2009: Hazeltine National GC (PGA Championship, 7,674 yards). Winner: TBA
2008: Conservatory Course (Ginn sur Mer Classic, 7,663 yards). Winner: Ryan Palmer
2008: Torrey Pines South Course (U.S. Open Championship, 7,643 yards). Winner: Tiger Woods
2009: Torrey Pines South Course (Buick Invitational, 7,628 yards). Winner: Nick Watney
2008: Torrey Pines South Course (Buick Invitational, 7,569 yards). Winner: Tiger Woods
2008: Trump International GC (Puerto Rico Open, 7,569 yards). Winner: Greg Kraft
2007: Torrey Pines South Course (Buick Invitational, 7,568 yards). Winner: Tiger Woods
2006: Torrey Pines South Course (Buick Invitational, 7,568 yards). Winner: Tiger Woods
2005: Torrey Pines South Course (Buick Invitational, 7,568 yards). Winner: Tiger Woods
2004: Torrey Pines South Course (Buick Invitational, 7,568 yards). Winner: John Daly
2003: Torrey Pines South Course (Buick Invitational, 7,568 yards). Winner: Tiger Woods
2002: Torrey Pines South Course (Buick Invitational, 7,568 yards). Winner: Jose Maria Olazabal
2006: Medinah Country Club (PGA Championship, 7,561 yards). Winner: Tiger Woods

What does this tell us? Well, either Tiger is pretty damn good at Torrey Pines or he dominates long courses. He'd go a long way toward confirming the latter by filling his name into that TBA spot atop this list on Sunday evening.

12:48 p.m.: Tiger Woods has birdied his third hole of the day on No. 2, moving to 3-under through 11.

I mentioned his opening-round scores at this year's other majors earlier, but here were his Thursday night positions at each of those events:

• Masters: T-20
• U.S. Open: T-81
• British Open: T-68

In a share of second place right now, it appears TW has finally come out throwing haymakers on Day 1 and it's proving extremely beneficial. Barring a few bogeys over the next seven holes, Woods should have his best 18-hole placement on a major leaderboard this season.

12:39 p.m.: Just off the pitch in Mexico City, midfielder Michael Bradley now leads the PGA at 4-under through nine holes.

Huh? Oh, different guy.

This Michael Bradley played really well during the CA Championship at Doral earlier this year ... as he was busy winning in Puerto Rico that week.

That was his first PGA Tour start of the season. Since then, he's done absolutely nothing. Here are the results for his last 11 appearances: WD, MC, MC, MC, MC, T-46, T-39, T-66, MC, MC, T-68.

Obviously, he was just saving up all of his good shots for this week.

12:37 p.m.: Blog Jinx!

First of the week. As soon as I mention Alvaro Quiros, he bogeys the 18th hole to make the turn at 3-under.

Sorry 'bout that, Alvaro.

12:29 p.m.: With Tiger Woods at 2-under through 10 holes, I'm receiving a lot of e-mails like this one from Jeff in Parts Unknown:

With the way Tiger is blowing away his traditional weak opening round, any chance this will be over by tomorrow afternoon? Can he go bogey-free and turn this into a rout? The only real competition is already behind him and we know how they respond to being behind Tiger -- they all fold like cheap tents. Tiger by eight shots ... and it might not be that close.

I feel like these e-mails should be accompanied by Conan O'Brien shining a flashlight on his face while we hear the chant, "In the Year 2000 ..."

In case you haven't noticed, TW doesn't crunch fields by double digits -- or close to it -- anymore. In fact, Woods' five victories this season have been by a combined 10-shot differential.

That doesn't mean he's not as dominant as he used to be. Actually, it means just the opposite. At some point in the past nine years, Tiger learned he doesn't need to blow away the fields -- and maybe make some mistakes in the process; he only needs to win the tournament. And more often than not, he does just what is needed to find the winner's circle, while cashing in on his opponents' unforced errors.

So yes, there is a very good chance that Woods will win this week. But the notion that this tournament will be over by Friday afternoon is downright silly. He'll have to work for this one and the other guys aren't going to lie down when they see him on the leaderboard.

12:22 p.m.: Even though this is the longest venue in major championship history at 7,674 yards, I've contended throughout the week that the PGA wouldn't turn into a long drive contest.

Maybe I was wrong.

That's because the longest hitter on any major professional tour is currently leading this tournament. Alvaro Quiros, who leads the European Tour with an average distance of 315.6 yards off the tee and has averaged 316.8 in PGA Tour-sanctioned events, is now atop the leaderboard at 4-under.

Great story from earlier today: As the group of Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington and Rich Beem was on the green at the 606-yard par-5 11th, a ball came bouncing through as a player actually reached it in two.

When the threesome looked back toward the fairway, they saw Lee Westwood pulling up the sleeve of his golf shirt, flexing his biceps and then pointing to his playing partner. Alvaro Quiros.

12:09 p.m.: During each of the last two majors, we've seen Tiger Woods miss nearly everything from the 10-foot range that he looked at -- which proved to be his undoing at both Bethpage and Turnberry.

He may have gotten that figured out during wins at the Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational the past two weeks. And if the 18th hole is any indication, those mid-rangers will fall here at Hazeltine, too.

TW knocks in a 10-footer to save par on No. 18, shooting a 34 on the course's back nine to start his round at 2-under. If he goes under par on the front, he'll own his first sub-70 opening round at a major in his last seven starts.

12:02 p.m.: E-mail from Dave in Austin, Texas:

I have to admire the lead holders
Who carry a weight on their shoulders.
Paul Goydos has none
That must not be fun.
But I'm stuck here at work with these folders.

An uncalled-for shot at our co-leader? Nothing Goydos hasn't said about himself.

When asked by Bob Costas prior to the final round of last year's Players Championship why he keeps his shirt buttoned to the top on 90-degree days, Goydos quipped, "I have no shoulders, and that's the only way the shirt stays on."

11:54 a.m.: It's a tradition unlike any other.

At the Masters, Shingo Katayama shot a final-round 68 and finished solo fourth.

At the U.S. Open, Azuma Yano shot a second-round 65 and finished T-27.

At the British Open, Kenichi Kuboya shot an opening-round 65 and finished T-27.

And now at the PGA Championship -- for a fourth time this year -- another underrated Japanese import is climbing the leaderboard, as Hiroyuki Fujita is currently 3-under through 11 holes.

No Asian-born player has ever won a major, but it's gonna happen within the next decade if not the next five years.

In related news, I heard through the rumor mill that 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa said earlier this week that he's playing better golf than anyone in the field. I'll believe it when I see it.

11:46 a.m.: Padraig Harrington is now 2-under-par through seven holes ... of the Bridgestone Invitational.

Sure, he's working slowly, but Paddy expects to be here at Hazeltine by next Tuesday.

He is no longer on the clock. He's on the sundial.

11:42 a.m.: Tweet, tweet ...

robinjwalker@jasonsobel no love for Dustin Johnson? Or does he not need it after a shout out from Tiger re: long par 5's?

Johnson moves into that group at 3-under,with three birdies on the front side, including one on the first par-5 hole -- the 633-yard No. 3.

Asked last week about the three par-5s of 600-plus yards, Tiger Woods said, "I'm not Dustin Johnson, so I can't get there."

Hmmm ... prophetic comment from Woods.

If this golf thing doesn't work out for him, he can take over my pretournament prediction pieces.

11:36 a.m.: After a birdie on the par-5 15th hole, Tiger Woods just misses one on No. 16, but remains at 2-under through seven.

For the record, his birdie on No. 12 is one of only two at that hole so far today, of the 40 players who have played it.

11:30 a.m.: Haven't banned anyone from the Live Blog in a while, but really bad puns will do it every time. Josh from Westfield, N.J., consider yourself on double-secret (or not-so-secret) probation for this one ...

Sitting in the chair at the podiatrist's office having my toe fungus treated (from too many sweaty golf socks days) ... so glad to have the blog to keep me up-TOE-date :)

Everyone wish Josh well in his long road to recovery from this terrifying disease.

Seriously, that e-mail was awful on many different levels. Just terrible.

Josh went on to ask a question about Rory McIlroy, but I just have visions of staring at his big green toe and saying, "Uh ... yeah ... that guy ... he's ... uh ... pretty good and ... uh ... sorry, I can't concentrate with that thing staring at me like that."

11:26 a.m.: Tweet, tweet ...

okaypaul@JasonSobel should have gone with John Mallingerrick

Duly noted. I went for five-syllable silliness instead of the more streamlined version.

One more ...

robrosson@jasonsobel also playing at Virginia CC is Goydos. The head pro at VCC is in the field too Mike Miles (1 under)

Gotta wonder if there's something at VCC which helps them prepare for Hazeltine, because those three are now a combined 6-under-par, as Paul Goydos is tied for the lead with Robert Allenby and Camilo Villegas at 3-under.

11:18 a.m.: You know you want it. You know you need it. Crave it no longer, as Logan, who is "bringing the hits from Atlanta," checks in with our first limerick of the week:

Fairways and greens are "must makes"
Limiting driver mistakes
Low scores you can snag
PB and banana in your bag
In the "Land of 10,000 Lakes."

Our limericks can beat up your iambic pentameters.

Or something like that.

By the way, when I first inquired about how Hazeltine got its name, one of my fellow scribes told me it was from a woman who helped found the course. Uh, not so much. It's a lake. Turns out there are a lot of lakes around here.

11:10 a.m.: Joining John Mallinger atop the leaderboard at 3-under is Robert Allenby, who has posted three birdies on the first seven holes, including each of the front-side par-5s.

Don't be surprised if Allenby remains in the top 10 throughout the week. Be shocked, however, if he actually wins this thing.

That's because he has competed in 206 events since last winning a title at something called the Marconi Pennsylvania Classic in 2001. During that time, he has pulled 48 top-10 finishes and even claimed the Aussie Triple Crown in the winter of '05.

Classic example of how difficult it is to win out here, even for very good players.

By the way, Allenby switched to a claw putting grip at Firestone last week and is making 'em from everywhere. He's feeling very confident right now. Then again, he's the type of player who often feels confident on Thursday.

11:03 a.m.: E-mail from Marty in Parts Unknown:

You mentioned the par-5's and their length. Following that up, the fact that the PGA of America didn't turn any of the par-5s into par-4s as the USGA likes to do has to make that length a little bit easier to swallow and allow for lower scores ... well, in relation to par, anyway. Although, I guess they always add up the same. Any validity to that theory?

Absolutely. I mean, it doesn't matter if they call something a par-4, par-5 or par-18 -- the total score on the hole is all that matters. So why do we use it? Because if I told you that John Mallinger was currently at 29 through eight holes, there would be no sense of comparison to D.J. Trahan, at 43 through 11.

So yes, par is a necessary way of keeping score during a tournament and defining some holes, but does it make any difference if we have a winning score of 10-under-par at a par-72 venue as opposed to 2-under on a par-70? No way.

10:56 a.m.: Joining Rory McIlroy atop the leaderboard is John Mallinger, who is now 3-under-par through eight holes.

In case you don't know the name, Mallinger is kinda like John Merrick, only if you replaced the "errick" with "allinger."

Seriously, they're both from Long Beach, Calif., are really good friends and play out of Virginia CC out there. And each one has shown a knack for climbing the leaderboard at big events of late.

Merrick shot a final-round 66 to finish T-6 at the Masters back in April; Mallinger was T-3 at the Players one month later.

Too bad we can't morph them into one uber-golfer named John Merrickallinger. That dude would be nasty.

10:53 a.m.: Tweet, tweet ...

bryanpetersen@JasonSobel, can we send someone to find out what Tiger is eating every four holes? Looks like some sort of sandwich on a 7-grain

Not sure about today, but he often goes peanut butter and banana.

That's right. The secret to winning 14 majors and 70 total PGA Tour events is ... peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

10:44 a.m.: E-mail from Ben in North Carolina:

As a Minnesota native, it's great to see fellow Minnesotan Tom Lehman under par early. The roars he might get on Sunday, should he be in contention, could rival Tom Watson's at Turnberry. You'd also have another "oldest player to ever win a major" story on your hands, unless you think that topic is too played out.

For his part, Lehman would like nothing more than remain in contention after finishing T-29 here back in 2002.

"You never lose your roots. Your roots are what they are and Minnesota is always going to be home," he said yesterday. "The fans here make me feel like that. They've been very gracious and supportive through the practice rounds. And you can tell that they really are pulling for me and for anybody else who has any connection to the state to do well."

If Lehman was to keep this up -- and at 1-under through five holes, that's a big if -- it would mark the third time this year that a player had a chance to become the oldest to win a major, joining Kenny Perry at Augusta and Watson at Turnberry.

10:40 a.m.: A second straight birdie for Rory McIlroy on No. 15 moves him to 3-under, a stroke in front of D.J. Trahan, Paul Goydos and John Mallinger.

Here's my take on these long par-5s: They may look fierce on the scorecard, but they actually won't play very tough. After all, if at least three of them are nearly unreachable for all players, then everyone will be forced to lay up to wedge position. From there, nearly everyone in the field should be able to put it on or near the green, then have a birdie putt.

So while we may not see many eagles on these holes, expect a healthy dose of birdies, lots of pars and very few bogeys or worse.

10:32 a.m.: Tiger Woods just entered that tough stretch of holes on the back nine in a very positive way.

Woods posts a birdie on the par-4 12th hole -- that 518-yard behemoth -- to move to 1-under-par through three holes.

That's now 18 of the 75 players who have completed at least one hole who are under par so far for the round. Yes, this course is long, but it's hardly impossible. With perfect scoring conditions right now, there's a good chance we'll see a decent number of scores in the 60s today.

10:29 a.m.: Spanning the Globe with Cowherd. Back in a minute ...

10:22 a.m.: Speaking of that 14th hole, I'm going to predict it plays as the easiest of the week.

At 352 yards on the scorecard, No. 14 will not only play as the only par-4 under 400 yards, it will be shorter than any others by 50 yards.

In a wicked stretch of holes from 12 through 15 -- No. 12 is a 518-yard par-4, No. 13 is a 248-yard par-3 and No. 15 is a 642-yard par-5 -- the 14th is one where players can pick up a much-needed stroke.

10:16 a.m.: So much for that playoff. Rory McIlroy just birdied the 14th hole -- his fifth of the day -- to move to 2-under-par and take a 1-shot lead over 11 others.

By the way, McIlroy is 13 months younger than Tiger Woods when he won at Augusta National in 1997.

I'm just sayin' ...

10:07 a.m.: If the PGA ended right now ... it would be awesome.

How come? Well, who wouldn't want to see a 10-man playoff for the Wanamaker Trophy?

Currently, D.J. Trahan, Charlie Wi, Hiroki Fujita, Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Robert Allenby, Dustin Johnson, J.B. Holmes, Camilo Villegas and Tom Lehman are tied for the lead at 1-under-par.

My suggestion to the PGA of America: If it happens, make 'em all go out in a 10-some for the three-hole playoff and inevitable sudden death. And yes, put 'em on the clock.

9:48 a.m.: E-mail from Geoffrey in Parts Unknown:

We all know Tiger usually has mediocre first rounds in major championships. What do you think he needs to do today in order to strike fear into his peers?

Look, the notion that Tiger "strikes fear" into other players is a myth. Maybe on a Sunday in the same pairing; I can buy that. But if he shoots 65 today, will the other 155 players be intimidated by his presence on the leaderboard? No way.

That said, he does need to get off to a better start than he has in other recent majors. So far this season, he has yet to break 70 in a major championship opening round, shooting 70 at the Masters, 74 at the U.S. Open and 71 at the British Open.

In fact, he's only done so once since 2007, opening with a 69 at Carnoustie that year.

I've written the "heavyweight fighter throwing early jabs, feeling out the opponent" analogy ad nauseum over the years, but I think it's time for Woods to amend his strategy and begin taking a few more chances on Day 1. This could mean hitting a few more drivers off the tee, cutting off a dogleg here or there, or firing at a few more flagsticks. Whatever the case, it's becoming more apparent that waiting to make a move and simply lurking for a few days may not be the best method of going about his business on the course.

9:39 a.m.: Tweet, tweet ...

This one is from me at about 4 p.m. yesterday:

JasonSobel This tweet is for the three dudes who have sent me 100 messages today asking for a Live Blog mention for club pro Mitch Lowe: We'll see.

The barrage of Mitch Lowe tweets kept coming this morning, but this may have been my favorite:

biggsyfl@JasonSobel Do you think the Mitch Lowe fanatics will quiet down now? +4 through 4...

No. No, I don't. Based on the volume of tweets I've received about the California club pro -- all from friends and relatives, no doubt -- the phenomenon will continue.

Lowe is currently DFL -- Dead Freakin' Last -- of the three dozen or so who have completed at least one hole.

9:35 a.m.: The grouping of Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington and Rich Beem are now about to start their rounds on 10th tee and ... what's this? Oh, wow. They've just been put on the clock.

It appears Harrington took too long to pull driver out of his bag and the threesome has now fallen 17 minutes behind the group in front. That's a tough break. But I'm sure Paddy will play much better when he's in a hurry.

Uh, maybe not ...

9:29 a.m.: E-mail from Nick in Parts Unknown:

Have you heard anything about the rumor that Tiger injured himself at the driving range yesterday?

I've heard that he was getting his back worked on by Steve Williams while on the course a few days ago ... I've heard that he injured himself on the range ... I've heard that he may not be 100 percent healthy right now ...

And I'm not buying any of it.

As for the on-course stuff, I've got to believe that was more of a loosening-up type of thing than a serious injury. And I watched him for about an hour on the range yesterday and he looked fine -- no sense of worry from him, Stevie or Hank Haney.

Of course, if it really is bothering him, we may never know. As always, Tiger will only tell us what he wants us to know, so if he'd rather keep it a secret that he's hurting, he can simply deny it.

That said, from watching him swing and witnessing his movements, I don't believe there is anything wrong.

9:22 a.m.: Big news here at the course ... and it has nothing to do with this tournament directly.

Golf has just been recommended by the International Olympic Committee as a new sport for the 2016 Summer Games. Doesn't mean it's officially in, but it does serve as very good news in the process.

I posted these quotes yesterday, but for those who missed it, I figured it was worth sharing the opinions of some big-name players in the golf world:

Tiger Woods: "I think that golf is a truly global sport and I think it should have been in the Olympics a while ago. If it does get in, I think it would be great for golf and especially some of the other smaller countries that are now emerging in golf, I think it's a great way for them to compete and play and get the exposure that some of these countries aren't getting."

Padraig Harrington: "I'd love to be an Olympian. Doesn't that sound good? Imagine us being Olympic athletes. I think it would be fantastic for golf. As a golfer, I would think we have all the credentials to be Olympians. We probably have one of the -- how would I put this? Not very many sports -- most of the time, we don't have referees out there. We are playing away on our own. It seems like it was always destined to be an Olympic sport. I'm sure there's a lot of athletes out there that would never put golf as a sport, but trying to explain that to somebody that doesn't play golf, they will never understand what goes into golf. Most golfers realize what goes into it and will see it as being a natural sport for the Olympics."

Colin Montgomerie: "I actually went over with your own Tim Finchem and Ty Votaw and also with our Peter Dawson to Lausanne [Switzerland]. And I spoke on behalf of golf to recommend golf to the IOC, to the committee to try and get golf in the Olympics in 2016, starting in 2016. I hear the vote and the recommendation is to be put forward tomorrow for the two sports to go into another selection process in Copenhagen later on. I just hope and pray that golf is one of those seven sports that we were up against, and let's hope that it does. I won't be personally playing possibly in 2016. I heard that Tiger, unless he's retired, which he won't be, will play, and I'm delighted that he's put his name forward, as well, to [compete] not just for himself but for the United States. That gives us all a boost. And let's hope that golf becomes an Olympic sport. It was an Olympic sport in 1900 and 1904 in the Paris Olympics, but for some unknown reason didn't continue."

Lee Westwood: "When it was initially mentioned to me I was a bit against it because I was of the view that an Olympic gold medal should be the pinnacle of your sport; whereas in golf, I don't think it's ever going to be like that with the four major championships. They are always what people are going to be judged by in the years to come. But having sat down with people who have obviously sat in meetings about it and know more about it than me, that have told me, you know, what being involved with the Olympics and the fun that can come from being in the Olympics and the broadness of people that are obviously going to watch the Olympics that have never seen golf before, it could involve more people in different countries, as well, take it to more countries; then I think it's probably a good thing."

And since I'm repurposing yesterday's content anyway, allow me to once again share my thoughts on golf's possible inclusion in the Olympics:

I'm all for it ... but not in the current format that has been proposed to the IOC, which is -- yawn -- a 72-hole stroke-play event. How original. Instead, I'd like to see some sort of co-ed team match play format that includes alternate shot, best ball and maybe even a scramble. Let's face it: During the two weeks of Olympics, there are other sports which will garner more coverage than golf. If this is just another four-round medal play event like every other week on tour, it won't make a dent in the general coverage and fan interest. But dress it up and make it interesting with some different formats and I think it would gain an incredible amount of attention.

9:14 a.m.: Tweet, tweet ...

Fredsmith84@JasonSobel what have you thought of the crowds? I heard we're breaking records for attendance and Midwest-niceness.

Great crowds throughout the week already. Those in attendance for Tiger Woods' early Monday morning practice round claimed that there may have been more people watching one of his Monday rounds than ever before -- uh, other than at the last few U.S. Opens.

It's not gonna let up today or for the next three, either. Expect great crowds here at Hazeltine all week.

9:04 a.m.: For the fourth time in the last six major championships, one of the world's top three players won't be competing.

Tiger Woods, of course, missed the final two majors of last year due to injury. No. 2-ranked Phil Mickelson didn't play in last month's British Open to be with his wife Amy, who was undergoing breast cancer treatment. And now we learn that Paul Casey, who is currently ranked third in the world, has pulled out of the PGA Championship with a strained intercostal.

As he said last week after leaving the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational only six holes into the first round, "I'm not an expert on this. I Googled it, but I still don't know what it means."

Turns out, it's "somewhere in the ribs," he deduced via search engine. Casey becomes the third top-100 player to WD this week, joining Robert Karlsson and Trevor Immelman.

9:00 a.m.: In the midst of finishing runner-up here at Hazeltine during the 1970 U.S. Open, Dave Hill was asked what this venue needed. "Eighty acres of corn and a few cows," he said. "They ruined a good farm when they built this course."

Some might say there is still a pig, a cow and some chickens at this site ... but that would only be a knock against John Daly, Colin Montgomerie and anyone trying to beat Tiger Woods on a Sunday.

(Save your e-mail, golf fans. It was a joke!)

It's a beautiful morning here in Chaska, Minn., where the first round of the PGA Championship is already under way, as now this latest edition of the Live Blog is, too. "Glory's Last Shot" officially began 45 minutes ago, when glory's first shots were fired on the first and 10th tees by D.J. Trahan and Richard Green, respectively. Currently, Trahan and Briny Baird lead the tournament at 1-under through two holes -- and as anyone who knows golf will tell you, a 1-stroke lead with 70 holes to play nearly guarantees a championship.

As always, I'll be answering questions and offering reader comments throughout the day, so hit me at pgablog@gmail.com or username JasonSobel on Twitter. And don't forget to kick back and enjoy the Live Blog theme song, courtesy of our house band, Far Beyond Frail. You may now swing away ...

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.