By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
MEDINAH, Ill. -- With a thick blanket of gray clouds hovering above Medinah Country Club, the second round of the 88th PGA Championship got under way on time at 7 a.m. CT Friday.
First-round co-leader Chris Riley teed off at 7:20 a.m. and got off to a fast start by birdieing the first hole. He bogeyed the second but rebounded quickly with another birdie at the par-4 third. Sweden's Henrik Stenson also got off to a strong start by making birdie his first two holes to get to 6 under.
Riley, a member of the 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup team, matched 26-year-old Ryder Cup hopeful Lucas Glover with a 6-under-par 66 on Thursday. That was good for a one-shot advantage over Billy Andrade, who got into the PGA as the seventh alternate.
Glover and Andrade were scheduled to tee off at 1:05 p.m. and 12:35 p.m., respectively.
Stewart Cink, Robert Allenby, Luke Donald, Henrik Stenson, Davis Love III and J.J. Henry all opened with 4-under-par 68s Thursday to trail by two.
A group of 11 players finished the first round at 3-under-par 69, including Sergio Garcia and the much-anticipated threesome of 2006 major winners Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy. In all, a PGA Championship-record 60 players finished the first round under par on a perfect day for scoring, but a Friday forecast of a little wind and some rain showers could change things as play progresses.
Mickelson, Woods and Ogilvy play together again Friday afternoon and have a 1:35 p.m. tee time.
For 17 holes in the first round, Love was absolutely, unequivocally dialed in. He started out 6 under par through seven holes, and was alone in the lead at 7 under before disaster struck at the par-3 17th.
Love hit his tee shot long and right of the green and into a terrible lie in the rough, behind a bunker. Attempting to play a flop shot over the bunker, Love pretty much whiffed the ball and it didn't advance an inch, his club sliding under the ball in the gnarly grass. On his third shot, Love caught a club-full of rough before making contact with the ball and it plopped into the bunker. A sand shot and two putts later left Love with a triple-bogey 6 and dropped from 7 under par to 4 under par, two shots behind Glover and Riley.
"I just went right under it," Love said, explaining the costly miscue on 17. "It was teed up in the rough and I thought maybe I could flip it into the fringe and have it not go all the way across the green into the lake, and I just went right under it. Then you've got the same shot from a worse lie.
"I was taking a chance, trying to put it in the fringe and let it bounce onto the green somewhere because if I flew it halfway in the middle of the green it's in the lake. That's always the danger on a hole like that. If you leave it short, you're in the lake. If you hit it way over, now you've got another chance to hit it in the lake, and that's the position I was in."
A win at Medinah would be huge for Love. Aside from the fact that it would be his second major victory, it would also lock up a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Love has been a member of six Ryder Cup squads. Ironically, the only time over that period where he hasn't been among the top 10 heading into the PGA was 1997, when he won this event under a rainbow at Winged Foot. Love will be hoping for a repeat of that feat, as he currently stands at No. 15 on the U.S. Points Lists list.
"I'm trying to block it out," said Love, alluding to the Ryder Cup. "Obviously this one tournament is as important as anything I'm doing right now. If I play well here and give myself a chance to win, the rest of it will take care of itself."
While it's a fact that Medinah Country Club, site of the 88th PGA Championship, is the longest course in major championship history at 7,561 yards, there was certainly no shortage of low scores in the first round Thursday.
In the morning, all eyes were on the glamour group of Masters winner and reigning PGA Champion Mickelson, U.S. Open winner Ogilvy and British Open victor Woods.
Playing before enormous crowds that were 10-deep in spots along the back nine, the trio all matched each other with rounds of 3-under-par 69.
"I thought I played pretty good today," Woods said. "I hit the ball pretty solid all day and I had good speed on the greens. I missed a couple over the edge but also made a couple which was nice. Overall it was just a grind them out kind of round. Nothing really exciting, just kind of grind it out."
Ogilvy's scorecard was the most colorful in the group, as he made seven birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. The double came at the par-4 16th. The 29-year-old Aussie sent his tee shot with a long iron that he lost deep into the trees in the left rough. He was forced to punch out, but his ball scooted across the fairway and into the rough. His third shot fell short of the green, he chipped to 10 feet, missed the putt and carded the deflating double-bogey.
Mickelson was a scrambling fool throughout the round, putting his short-game magic to work on a number of occasions to save pars that looked like certain bogeys. On Nos. 14, 16, 17, 18, 3 and 4 Mickelson managed to get up and down for par with chips, pitches and flop shots.
"Fortunately I put it in the right spot and gave myself enough green to work with and didn't short-side myself and was able to get up and down," he said. "That was a big factor."
Playing the back nine first, Mickelson, Woods and Ogilvy started at 8:30 a.m. CT. No. 10 is the furthest hole from the clubhouse at Medinah and Mickelson was surprised at the lack of a crowd when he teed off, even though the right side of the fairway and behind the green were completely lined and several people deep.
"It was 8:30 in the morning and it was a long ways away," he said. "There was nobody out there. It was a nice, quiet day. When we made the turn it was a little louder."
Woods agreed with Mickelson's assessment.
"It didn't feel like Sunday afternoon," he said. "I guess maybe because we were so far out there on the golf course nobody knew where we were. You know, hey, the crowds were more energetic towards the end. I think they were just getting out here. The 10th hole is not exactly easy to find out there. As we played along, the galleries got a little more enthusiastic and a lot bigger."
Ogilvy was the odd man out, obviously, as he played alongside the world's No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players, respectively. However, the U.S. Open winner more than held his own, holing two long birdie putts at Nos. 18 and 1.
"I got the best seat in the house, so it was fun," he said. "Crazy, I guess you would say -- early it was quite crazy. Quite dignified inside the ropes but quite crazy outside the ropes I'm sure. And we all played quite well. I mean, I started well and then fell in a hole and then played really well on the back nine. And Tiger played pretty consistent the whole time and Phil played pretty well the whole time, too, so it was good fun."
In other action, Olin Browne recorded the first hole-in-one of tournament when he aced the 197-yard par-3 17th -- his seventh hole of the day -- to get to 2 over for the championship. It was Browne's third ace in Tour competition and second in a major. He also had a hole-in-one at the 2001 U.S. Open Southern Hills.
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