Field makes short work of long Medina
Friday, August 18, 2006
Sixty players shot under par in opening round of the year's final major.
MEDINAH, Ill. -- That big showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson was overrated.
So was Medinah.
In the 193 rounds since this major switched to stroke play in 1958, par has never been such a pushover. Lucas Glover and Chris Riley each shot 6-under 66 to lead the assault on that 7,561-yard cream puff called Medinah Country Club, which yielded 60 scores under par.
If that wasn't enough, it didn't take long for the Ryder Cup to come into focus.
Glover made sure of that, with three birdies on his last four holes to put his name atop the leaderboard. He is 14th in the standings and needs to finish at least eighth for a chance to earn a spot on the U.S. team -- and even then someone could pass him.
When he walked off the 18th green, one glance at the leaderboard showed his work is far from done.
Billy Andrade, the seventh alternate at the PGA and 33rd in the standings -- very much alive for a spot on the team -- was one shot behind after a 67, while the group at 68 included Stewart Cink, J.J. Henry and Davis Love III, who took triple bogey on the 17th hole when he whiffed a shot with his wedge.
"It's just like looking at a leaderboard on the 18th tee on Sunday if you're in the hunt," Glover said, referring to the names of Ryder Cup hopefuls. "You're all vying for the same thing. You all want it, and that's the goal."
British Open champion Woods and Masters champion Mickelson -- along with U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy -- are chasing a second major title this year, and all of them opened with a 69.
That's not a bad start at a major, but certainly nothing special on this record day.
"We all kept ourselves right in the ball game," Woods said.
The only thing they didn't deliver was drama, from either the dynamics of their relationship or their games.
"He's in his own world and we take care of our game and our business," Mickelson said. "It's a fun day and we shake hands afterwards. We both played OK today, but we both had a chance to go a little lower."
Mighty Medinah was there for the taking. When the PGA Championship was played here seven years ago, only 35 players broke par and the course played about a stroke harder. The 60 sub-par rounds broke by two the previous PGA Championship record for any round, set in 1995 in the second round at Riviera.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with it," Cink said. "If somebody shoots 20-under-par this week, then they are going to be the PGA champion, and they are going to have to go through a whole lot to win this tournament. It's a tough win no matter what."
It could be tougher with so many players challenging. Those 60 players were separated by five shots after one day.
Billy Mayfair, two weeks removed from surgery for testicular cancer, was among the leaders at 6-under until he ran out of steam on the hillier back nine and settled in at 69.
Also at 69 was Sergio Garcia, known in these parts for that improbable shot he gouged out of the base of a tree on the 16th hole when he came close to toppling Woods in 1999. This time, he languished over a 2-foot par putt on the 16th hole and missed it badly to the right.
"It's a shame I go and miss a short putt on probably my favorite hole on the golf course," Garcia said.
Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen were among those at 70. Ernie Els, whose father-in-law died in South Africa early Thursday, shot 71.
The attention was on Woods and Mickelson, playing in the same group at a major for the first time since the 2001 Masters.
Only about 300 fans were waiting for them on the 10th tee at Medinah -- a 25-minute walk from the clubhouse -- to start the round.
They shook hands in a small tent while picking up their scorecards, just as they would if this were the Buick Invitational.
"Nice 3," Woods said to Mickelson after Lefty rolled in a 4-foot birdie putt at No. 11, the type of conversation heard at the Memorial.
Mickelson birdied the first two holes, then hit a stretch where he missed seven out of nine greens. He saved par on all of them except the par-3 second hole, pulling a 4-foot putt.
Woods made a sloppy bogey on the par-5 10th, cussing and flipping his club at the bag when he missed the green with his third shot, then chipped 35 feet by the hole. But he recovered with a key 7-foot par save on the 13th, and an unlikely birdie on the par-5 14th when he hit a blind 7-iron off a trampled lie in the rough and holed a 30-foot putt.
Otherwise, they were just another group of players taking dead aim at Medinah.
"No one was walking to the other side of the fairway to avoid the other," Ogilvy said. "And no one was walking across the fairway to talk to each other, either. It was a typical first day at a major championship."
None of the three major champions got the most out of a vulnerable Medinah, but they did enough. By the end of the day, they were three shots out of the lead, a solid start toward adding another major title this year.
One positive sign for Woods -- he has won his last six majors when opening with a round in the 60s.
Riley tied for fourth in the PGA Championship two years ago to make his first Ryder Cup team, but not even a victory would help him now. He hasn't had a top-10 finish since Whistling Straits in 2004, meaning he has zero points.
But he's starting to play well again, which means just as much.
He just never thought 66 would be good enough to be at the top of the leaderboard at Medinah, not on a day like this.
"I don't know what's low, but I thought 6-under would have been in the top five," he said. "I don't know what place it's in, but I'm happy with it."
Love tried to put a happy face on his round, but there was no escaping the triple bogey at No. 17.
He tried to cut a 6-iron over the water, but pulled it into deep rough with a bunker between his ball and a slick putting surface running toward Lake Kadijah.
"If I fly it in the middle of the green, it's going in the lake," Love said. "I didn't have many options."
He picked the worst one by trying to hit the perfect flop. His sand wedge slid so steeply through the tall grass that the ball didn't even move -- a whiff. He dumped it in the bunker on the next shot, blasted out timidly and two-putted from 12 feet for triple bogey.
"I was one club away from a great round," Love said. "Other than two or three swings, I wouldn't change much."