By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
MEDINAH, Ill. -- The hyped-up grouping of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy for the first 36 holes of the 88th PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club didn't exactly live up to its billing on Thursday. Each of the year's first three major winners shot ho-hum rounds of 3-under-par 69.
But for whatever electricity the first round lacked, the second round made up for in a big way. The trio was firing on all cylinders, sending the overstuffed crowds into a frenzy hole after hole.
While Ogilvy was plodding around the course making birdies the old fashioned way, Mickelson was spraying the ball all over and hitting 40-footers -- like at No. 6 -- to save par. Woods, meanwhile, was methodical. Picking his spots, the 11-time major champion made birdie where he could and stayed away from the big number in his bogey-free round of 4-under 68, capped by a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole, followed by knifing fist pumps that made the gallery all the more excited.
When the round finally ended under dark gray skies and a steady rain, Ogilvy's 68 moved him to 7-under par for the tournament with Woods and Davis Love III, just one shot back of the incredibly unlikely foursome of leaders -- Henrik Stenson, Billy Andrade, Luke Donald and Tim Herron.
Mickelson shot a 1-under 71 Friday to get to 4-under for the tournament, four shots off the lead.
"I'm in good shape, only one back," said Woods, who is looking to win the PGA Championship for the third time -- it would be his second at Medinah, as he won here in 1999. "There's a bunched leader board.
"You knew it was going to be that way with the soft greens, and that's basically what it's turned out to be," he added. "You've got to go out there and understand there's going to be a bunch of guys probably within four or five shots of the lead, and go out there and make some birdies here and there and not try to give anything back."
That's precisely what Woods did Friday. He picked up his birdies on Nos. 5, 7, 14 and 18.
The birdie at No. 5, a 537-yard par 5, came after an errant tee shot. Woods hit driver into the right fairway bunker and had tree trouble, forcing him to chop out of the sand and back into the fairway to have a line at the green. From there, he hit a so-so approach that sailed over the top of the flag and came to rest on the fringe 15 feet from the hole, then drained the putt to put some life into the crowd.
At seven, another par 5, Woods was on in two with a long-iron shot and two-putted for the bird. The birdie at 14, his third on a par 5 in the second round, was thanks to a terrific third shot that went 10 feet past the flag and sucked back to within three feet of the hole.
"I really had good pace on the greens left a couple short, but that's all right," Woods said. "Had a couple kick-ins from there. I really felt like I hit the ball well after the first six holes, and from there, really felt like I controlled my flight."
The most incredible par of the day was Mickelson's at No. 6. After pulling his drive so far that it was 40 yards right of the fairway and next to a television crane, Lefty went for broke and tried to weave his second shot through a bunch of tall oak trees. He almost pulled it off, too, but the ball struck the last tree solid and kicked right up near the green.
From there, Mickelson had to negotiate an overhanging tree and a greenside bunker with very little green to work with. As he contemplated going over the tree with one of his patent flop shots, his caddie Jim Mackay talked him out of it.
So instead, Mickelson played a spectacular chip under the tree and over the bunker to the back of the green, then nailed the 40-foot bomb, turning a potential disaster into a routine par. It was a classic "there are no pictures on the scorecard" hole for the defending PGA Champion.
"I obviously am not striking the ball very well, and I fought hard the first two rounds to keep myself in it," Mickelson said. "I'm only four back with two rounds to go. [PGA Professional] Rick [Smith, his coach] and I are going to get together tonight and go over the video of some of the tournaments where I've struck it well and see if we can see the difference between those tournaments and here. Hopefully I'll come out tomorrow and get it clicking and post a low round, because there's a lot of birdies out there if you're playing well."
Ogilvy, the 29-year-old U.S. Open winner who many considered the odd man out when paired with golf's two Goliaths, did more than hold his own. He took back-to-back bogeys at 11 and 12, but bounced back with birdies at 13 and 15 to stay at 4-under for the day.
"Experience-wise, a lot of guys would kill for experience like that," Ogilvy said, describing what it was like to play alongside Woods and Mickelson. "I'm pretty fortunate that I get to play two days with those guys. One, you learn a lot by watching them play, and two, you learn a lot how to deal with all the stuff that goes on in their world. Their world is a bit different from my world. They can keep their world, but it's fun for a few days.
"Yeah, you can't help but get confidence," he added. "Then you can't really be that disappointed if you don't play great in that situation, but if you play well it can only help you in the future. I'm pretty happy with it."
The 36-hole cut was even-par 144 with 70 players playing on the weekend. It marked the first time in 11 years that the cut has not been over par at the PGA Championship. In 1995 at Riviera Country Club, the 36-hole cut was even par.
After a frustrating end to his first round Thursday -- a triple-bogey on his 17th hole of the day -- Love didn't let the irritation carry over to Friday.
With a 3-under 69, the 1997 PGA Champion moved to 7-under par for the tournament and was one shot off the early second-round lead, which was held by Stenson at 8-under.
Love was efficient throughout his round and didn't have any devastating miscues like he did Thursday. He did have three bogeys in a row early on Friday, but canceled them out with three birdies on his front nine to make the turn at even par for the round.
Birdies at Nos. 1, 4 and 7 -- he played the back nine first -- propelled Love to 7-under.
"I'm making it interesting every day," Love said. "It took me a little longer to get 3-over-par, it took me three holes rather than one hole. But it's a major, and if you don't hit good shots, you can make bogeys really quick. I hit two bad shots and then probably a wrong club and made three easy bogeys in a row. It's unfortunate, but I'm playing very well and making a lot of birdies and I stayed very patient today and came back from it."
Donald, a native of England who went to school at Northwestern and lives in the Chicago area now, is a local favorite of sorts. Prior to the start of the tournament, Medinah Head Professional Mike Scully chose Donald as a potential winner, saying Donald has put in more preparation time at Medinah than anyone else.
His hard work was evident, as he pumped out consecutive 68s and has yet to make a single bogey.
"If I slip up at all, I could be in the middle of the pack come Sunday," said Donald, who wouldn't get ahead of himself. "It just means that the course, I think, with the greens being as soft as they are, people are able to play this course and get around, get their way around it without too much trouble.
"The rough is tough, but there are spots where you can get away with it, unlike the U.S. Open this year," he added. "And the greens being as soft and as pure as they are, people can make putts, and I think that's why the leader board is so bunched up right now."
Stenson, a 30-year-old from Sweden, may not be a household name in the United States. But, he's one of the best players the European Tour has to offer.
Currently ranked No. 10 in the European Tour's Order of Merit, the Swede who is virtually a lock for the Ryder Cup team carded a fabulous round of 4-under 68 early on Friday. That boosted him to 8-under for the tournament and sole possession of the early second-round clubhouse lead.
Stenson bogeyed the last hole, but his total was one shot better than Love.
"I'm not happy with the way I played the par 5s today," Stenson said. "I only played them even par. I left one or two out there for sure. On the other hand, I made three birdies on the par 3s, so it's a bit of give and take, and still a little bit of room for improvement on the weekend. I'm just happy to keep it going."
First round co-leader Chris Riley shot an even-par 72 Friday to stay within two shots of the early lead.
"I didn't really score as well as I did yesterday, but my goal out there today was shoot par or better, and I did that," Riley said. "I'm really just positioning myself for Sunday."
Lucas Glover -- the other first round co-leader -- struggled to a 2-over 74 Friday to fall to 4-under. The good news for Glover is that he made his first cut in a major championship.
Another Swede, Daniel Chopra, also made a move on Friday. The 32-year-old shot a 5-under 67 and moved to 5-under for the tournament, three shots off the pace set by his countryman. The 2003 PGA Champion Shaun Micheel and Sergio Garcia also finished at 5-under.
Stenson and Andrade will be in the final pairing Saturday, and will go off at 1:55 p.m. CT. Woods and Riley will go off together at 1:25 p.m.
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