Notebook: Mayfair reveals that now his mother is ailing
Plus, Vijay Singh heads the list of high-profile players getting the weekend off, David Toms is thriving on some inside information, Sergio Garcia might be on the verge of a turnaround, age means nothing (yet) to Fred Funk, and more.
MEDINAH, Ill. -- Two weeks after undergoing cancer surgery, Billy Mayfair got more bad news this week.
Mayfair came off the golf course Friday after a second straight round of 69 in the PGA Championship and revealed his mother suffered a stroke and a heart attack two days earlier. She was in intensive care in Phoenix.
"I've talked to the doctors and there's not much I can do right now," Mayfair said. "Shoot low scores here, and that will make her feel better."
Mayfair is doing his part.
He started the second round on the 10th hole and birdied Nos. 15 and 16, but bogeys on the next two holes put him even through nine. Three birdies on his back nine put him at 3-under for the day, 6-under for the tournament, two off the lead, and gave him "a great chance going into the weekend."
Fans have cheered him on all week.
"The fans here in Chicago have always been the greatest to me," said Mayfair, whose best finish at a major is a tie for third at the 2001 British Open.
HEADING HOME: It wasn't long ago that Vijay Singh was a favorite whenever he teed it up. He was winning tournaments, and adding majors at a respectable clip.
Singh shot a 72 on Friday for a 1-over 145 total that wasn't good enough to make the even-par cut in the PGA Championship. It was the second straight missed cut in a major for Singh, who also failed to play on the weekend at the British Open. He had not missed back-to-back cuts in majors since the 1994 PGA Championship and 1995 Masters.
Hurt by a balky putter, Singh is having his worst season since he was winless in 2001. His only win this year is the Barclays Classic.
Colin Montgomerie (4-over), who tied for second at the U.S. Open with Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, also missed the cut, as did David Duval (1-over), Justin Leonard (2-over), Paul Azinger (3-over), Fred Couples (3-over), Nick Price (4-over) and Tom Lehman (4-over).
SWEET HOME, CHICAGO: David Toms is getting a little inside information this week.
Toms' caddie, Scott Gneiser, is a member at Medinah Country Club. Well, actually, his wife is the member. Jane Gneiser's father is Chicago Blackhawks great Stan Mikita, and the family has belonged to Medinah for years.
Jane Gneiser is also the reigning club champion, a title she's won four times.
"I'm the spouse," Gneiser said, laughing. "And she lets me know it."
Though Medinah's No. 3 course is pretty straightforward, Gneiser said he played it about 10 times this summer to get a better feel for it. Whatever he and Toms are doing, it's working.
Toms shot a 5-under 67 Friday. At 6-under for the tournament, the 2001 PGA Champion was two strokes off the lead.
Knowing the course well should help on the tricky greens. But Gneiser said he misread a couple on the front nine Friday -- and Toms let him know it.
"He said, 'That's good. Two missed reads on the first nine holes,"' Gneiser said, laughing again. "That's OK. It keeps me sharp."
ZINGER FUMES: Azinger is a top candidate to be U.S. Ryder Cup captain in 2008, and he wasn't too pleased to hear that the FedEx Cup competition will bump into the matches.
In the six-year television contract that starts next year, the 2008 season is the only one in which there will not be a one-week gap between the end of the FedEx Cup and either the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup.
Players will be expected to compete in six events in a seven-week stretch through the season-ending Tour Championship, leaving them worn out when it's time to play for the flag instead of $10 million.
"It's a prime example of the ignorance and inconsideration of the PGA Tour when it comes to making a schedule," Azinger said.
He also cited last year, when the tour schedule went from a Labor Day finish outside Boston across three time zones to the Bell Canadian Open in Vancouver, then back across the continent for the 84 Lumber Classic in western Pennsylvania.
The tour attributed the 2008 problem to NBC being locked into the Sept. 19-21 dates for the Ryder Cup.
"If they're blaming it on a network, it's because they don't think they've ever done something wrong," Azinger said.
MONEY MATTERS: Total prize money for this week's tournament will be $6.8 million, a $300,000 increase from last year. The winner gets $1.224 million.
The U.S. Open also went from $6.5 million to $6.8 million this year.
The richest major this year was the British Open at $7.35 million because of the strong exchange rate. The Masters was $7 million.
A ROUGH ENDING: Jerry Haas enjoyed playing in the same group as his older brother, Jay. Otherwise, he had two rough rounds on the course and was glad to be finished.
"I'm just a little bit out of my element," said Jerry Haas, who shot 79 on Friday and was 9-over for the tournament. "There is no question about that."
Jerry Haas was 3-under for the day through six holes, but he bogeyed Nos. 7 and 8 and double-bogeyed the ninth. He bogeyed six holes on the back nine, including the final four.
"I had a couple of bad breaks out there today," he said. "I'd much rather enjoy the game. I'm just not good enough."
It was the first time brothers were matched in the PGA Championship since Lanny and Bobby Wadkins in 1995. Jerry Haas, Wake Forest's golf coach, qualified for the PGA Championship by finishing in the top 20 in the PGA Professional National Championship. Jay Haas, the reigning Senior PGA Champion, was 1-under through two rounds and made the cut for the weekend.
HELPING HAND: Rather than trying to discourage fans from getting involved in the action, Tiger Woods chose to make light of an incident during his second round.
Woods' opening drive was heading deep into the trees when, on its first bounce, a man in the crowd stretched out his arm and brought the ball down.
The world No. 1 still could not reach the green from the rough, but the ball would definitely have been deeper in the trees if it had not been touched and he probably would have had a harder job saving his par.
"Hey, I appreciate it," said Woods when told afterwards what had happened. "It's nice to have Shaq out there knocking them back."
That was a jovial reference to giant basketball star Shaquille O'Neal, but Woods might care to reflect at some point that help from spectators is not something he should make fun of.
TURNAROUND IN STORE?: Seven years ago, the golf world was turned upside down when a 19-year-old Spaniard nicknamed "El Nino" challenged Tiger Woods on Sunday at Medinah.
After his gutsy and emotional performance in losing to Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship, this swashbuckler in the image of fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros left no doubt that major glory would find his way.
Well as a 26-year-old, Sergio Garcia is still majorless. He remains one of the premier players in the world tee to green, but is one of the PGA Tour's worst putters, ranking 164th.
He was in the hunt at this year's British Open, as Garcia played in Sunday's final group with Woods, trailing the world No. 1 by two. Garcia got nothing going in the final round, shooting a 73 and tying for fifth place.
This week, things seem to be turning around and it may have to do with the venue.
"The course is still the same and the memories are still there," Garcia said. "It's always nice to come back to a place where you've done well and a place like this for me is definitely special."
On Friday, Garcia birdied his first hole, then triple-bogeyed the 11th when it took him several shots just to get on the putting surface. He tallied four birdies the rest of the way for a 2-under 70 and is tied for 12th place at minus-5.
"I'm in decent position, no doubt about that," said Garcia. "This is a major and it's not easy no matter what some people might think. It's a good, decent score and hopefully I can have a couple more good ones and see what we can do."
FUNKY PGA: Fred Funk gained a cult-like status in the 2002 PGA Championship when "Funk's Punks" showed up in full force. He was a spry 46 back then and tied for fourth place.
This year, as a part-time member of the Champions Tour, Funk posted his second consecutive 69 on Friday and is knotted in eighth place at 6-under 138.
"The age thing is way overplayed," said the 50-year-old. "I'm almost tired of hearing the age thing as an issue because Jay Haas played unbelievable golf and still is right now.
"I think if you take care of yourself and you're motivated, really with this game, there seems to be a line where your physical abilities drop off a little bit. So 50 is not that big a deal."
Funk is exempt on the PGA Tour through 2010 thanks to his amazing win at last year's Players Championship and now feels like he has the right mindset to continue competing on the PGA Tour.
"I'm real comfortable and real confident and enjoying putting again," said Funk, who was a former club professional. "So that's a big difference."
EXPERIENCE: The four second-round co-leaders have zero majors between them, but the trio one shot back owns 13, including this championship three times and this year's U.S. and British Opens.
OUCH: Mark Calcavecchia withdrew on Friday with an unspecified injury.
ON COURSE: The easiest hole through two rounds has been the 537-yard, par-5 fifth. It has yielded six eagles, 132 birdies and is playing to a stroke average of 4.63. The hardest hole through 36 is the par-4 16th, which measures 453 yards. It has yielded only 31 birdies, yet 101 bogeys and 14 double-bogeys or worse. The hole is playing to an average of 4.32.
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