By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
Email your question or comment to T.J. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Glory's Last Shot, the season's final major, the 92nd PGA Championship here at the breathtaking Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis.
Last year's live, running blog from Hazeltine was so much fun I've decided to take one for the team and take the tough assignment yet again. You're welcome, guys.
If you're looking simply for scores and stats, then folks, this blog isn't for you. If, instead, you want you to sit back and relax from the comfort of your own home -- or, in most cases, your cubicle -- and let me take you to Whistling Straits to see the PGA Championship through my eyes, then you're in the right place.
Armed with an iPhone and a nifty little pedometer to track my steps along the abundant Whistling Straits acreage that winds its way around the shores of Lake Michigan, I will be reporting live from the course throughout the tournament to relay to you what it is that I'm seeing, hearing, thinking and feeling -- which will probably be sore as I trek through the hills and valleys of this Pete Dye masterpiece. Hopefully I won't fall down, which can't be said for a number of poor souls I've already seen take some nasty spills this week.
Finally, if you'd like to send me an email, feel free to hit me up at email@example.com.
Your email might make the blog!6 p.m. CDT --
The lousy weather seems to have stayed away. The skies are still gray, but the rain is gone. Massive galleries surrounded the first tee to watch Tiger Woods tee off.
With a 3-wood, Woods smoked it down the left side of the fairway and even gave the club that famous twirl. The wind has picked up considerably and it'll be interesting to see what effect that has on the players teeing off now. If they're lucky, Tiger and playing partners Vijay Singh and Y.E. Yang should get in about nine holes before play is called due to darkness.
Enjoy what's left of play today and we'll start the blog up again tomorrow.5:25 p.m. CDT --
Bubba Watson hit a mammoth drive on the 361-yard, par-4 10th hole -- his first of the second round -- and easily got up and down for a birdie to get to 5 under. Watson was one of the early first-round leaders and if the course softens up with the rain we're expected to get overnight, Watson could have an edge with his booming length.
That said, the course surprisingly hasn't played that difficult in either of the two rounds. As of right now, 45 players are under par.
One of those is Tiger Woods at 1 under. Tiger is getting his second round started up in 20 minutes and he might even get a bulk of it in if the weathermen remain as far off as they've been all day, although we don't want to jinx it.
The rain, while present, hasn't been heavy yet. But the dark skies are still keeping me close to the media center. 4:15 p.m. --
The raindrops have begun to fall at Whistling Straits and it's supposed to get ugly in a hurry with a 95-percent chance of thunderstorms in the forecast.
I'm going to get close to the media center so I don't get stuck out here.
But first, I'll answer a couple of emails.
From Chad Flanders
Do your legs feel like Jello yet? We appreciate the blog. It's definitely one of the better parts of an already outstanding website. I'm no meteorologist but it looks like the heavier rain is going to stay south of the course. Usually after a storm blows through it gets real calm. You would think this would help Tiger and the other players that tee off late. But, has the wind really been that much of a factor to this point?
Stay strong my man.
Thanks, Chad. I'm hanging in there. And, yes, the legs are feeling like Jello, but I'm not going to complain because I've got an inbox jammed with emails from readers who say they'd be happy to take my job.
I see what you're saying about the calm conditions after the storm blows through, but it's actually been quite calm all day. You can certainly feel the wind more than you could on Thursday, but to describe it as a "strong wind" would be an exaggeration.
If it gets any calmer than it already is, and if the rain softens up the greens even more, we're looking at a serious birdie-fest in my opinion -- provided thunderstorms don't send the players off the course. So, yeah, it'll play into Tiger's hands, as well as the hands of those on his end of the draw.
From James Machtan in Marshfield, Wis.
Have you seen anyone watching the event from a boat? Thinking about heading over to Lake Michigan on Sunday and just wondering how early I gotta get there to get a good spot. Stay dry.
James, I have seen a few boats out on Lake Michigan, but I don't think they're seeing much, if any of the action. All the holes at Whistling Straits sit high on the cliffs and I can't think of a spot where anyone on a boat would have a good vantage point.
If you do bring your boat though, chances are the TV cameramen would love it for a nice scenic shot. 3:55 p.m. CDT --
Matt Kuchar (8 under) and Bryce Molder (6 under) were college teammates at Georgia Tech. Right now, the duo is running 1-2 on top of the PGA Championship leaderboard.
Kuchar might not be as much of a surprise as Molder. He's a two-time winner on the PGA Tour and since his second win at the end of last season, Kuchar has racked up eight top-10 finishes. It seems like he's in contention almost every time he tees it up.
Molder, meanwhile, hasn't enjoyed the same success as Kuchar on the PGA Tour, but he does have six top-10 finishes to his credit this season alone.
Kuchar and Molder, along with many others, are putting a surprising assault on par at Whistling Straits, as Brian in Lansing, Mich.
, points out:Hey TJ,
Just wondering what the heck is going on?! These pros are tearing the course up. With all these birdies and a reachable par 4, it makes me wonder what happened to the challenge in the game. Shouldn't par be a good score at least at a major championship?
I think what we're seeing, Brian, is that these players are staying out of trouble, keeping the ball on or near the fairway, which is making the pins accessible. Combine that with greens that haven't been overly slick and you're bound to see low scores.
Believe me -- there's still a challenge out there for the players, especially on this Pete Dye masterpiece. Chalk it up to great golf and smart golf. 2:45 p.m. CDT --
Let's get caught up on some emails.
From Darci in Sheboygan Falls, Wis.
:Hey TJ -
Have you heard any statistics on how many people have gotten hurt so far? Ankle injuries, etc.
Good question, Darci. I don't know if they're keeping stats on that, but, as I've said, it is getting slick out there. Whistling Straits is a breathtaking course, unlike anything you've seen, but it's incredibly difficult to navigate. I ran into a bunch of my photographer friends at lunch. They were talking about what a great venue this is to shoot ... but man, is it tiring to walk!
From Sharon Stephens in Missouri
:Tell us about the pin/badge the players are wearing on their belts today. Please -- thanks.
No problem, Sharon. The pin/badge you're seeing isn't unique to today. The player's wear them all the time when they're at the course. It's actually a money clip that also serves as identification for the player so that that can access the driving range, the course, the locker room, etc. Some players wear the clip on their belt buckle, some on their shirt and some on their hat.
From Steve Dishart in parts unknown
:Tiger has a long wait today. How will that impact him? What is he doing to prepare? How is Phil's health impacting him? Thanks.
Steve, you're right. Tiger does have a long wait. I think it will do nothing but help him, to be honest. He finished his first round yesterday and found out early today that his tee time would be late this afternoon. Therefore, he hasn't had to hang around at the course.
Furthermore, it seemed fairly obvious last night that -- whether they'll admit it or not -- he's working with swing instructor Sean Foley. The extra time might give Tiger a chance to digest what Foley is saying and have an easier time applying it during his second round.
Regarding Mickelson, I don't think the health issue is too much of a problem thus far. He's taking medicine to keep the pain under control and he's playing good golf -- 2 under for the day and 1 under for the tournament.
From Mario Cuna at the United Nations in New York
(hope I didn't blow your cover, Mario!):On behalf of all who have to sit in the office and miss the TV coverage, thanks for the live blog, which gives us some insight on what is going on at the PGA championship. Keep it coming ... and please let me know if either you or the tree trimmer is tired of the job. I'll be happy to fill in.
Thanks for the kind words, Mario. I don't know about the tree trimmer, but I'm hanging in there!
From Randy in Michigan
:Looking at the map for Wisconsin it looks like the weather could become a factor around 5:30. What are you hearing?
Well Randy, what I'm hearing is that we should have thunderstorms -- like nearly three hours ago. The forecasts we've seen today hasn't played out, thankfully. If it stays that way, we'll be OK. I can only go by what my eyes tell me. Right now, they're telling me it looks awfully dark outside for 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
However, it's looked that way a few times today before the sun overpowered the clouds. 2:25 p.m. CDT --
As mentioned in a previous post, that wind is kicking up on the course. On top of that, unfortunately, the skies are turning darker and darker. The good news is, as I was walking back in from the ninth tee box after watching Boo Weekley, D.A. Points and Seung-Yul Noh, I noticed that the Metlife blimp is still in the air. The weather can't be that close if that's the case, right?
Speaking of South Korea's Noh, how about this guy? He's 19 years old and he's at 4 under and one off the lead after a birdie on No. 9. Is he channeling his inner Y.E. Yang or something?
It's worth noting that with all the foot traffic out there, the hills are getting slicker by the minute. I've only seen one fall today and it didn't appear to be all that bad, as the gentleman bounced right back up. It's also getting soggy in the high traffic areas and I can see a lot of people opting to take paths through bunkers on the outside of the ropes, as opposed to the heathery hills. 1:35 p.m. CDT --
I may have just discovered what has to be the most exhaustive job in all of golf -- raking the bunkers at Whistling Straits.
This course has over 1,200 bunkers on it and yes, you read that right. I just walked through a bunch of them as I trekked my way over to No. 8, right along Lake Michigan.
Easiest job at Whistling Straits? Tree trimmer. All the trees here are on the outskirts of the course and none come into play.
Matt Kuchar is playing No. 8 right in front of me. He crushed his drive about 315 yards. From there, he stuck it to about 15 feet. The birdie effort missed, but his playing partner, Colin Montgomerie, dropped his birdie try from 40 or so feet and a fan belted out a loud, "Mooooonnnntttty!"
Unfortunately for the Monty fans out there, that birdie only got him back to 9 over.
The wind on the water here is the strongest it's been all week and it's taking down the humidity, which feels nice.Editor's Note: Easiest job at Whistling Straits is the tree trimmer? Last time I checked, I'm paying you to walk around a golf course, watch the greatest players in the world, answer a few emails, write a few ho-hum paragraphs, and complain about the mosquitoes and not having a good cell phone signal. I bet the tree trimmer there would take your job in a heartbeat. As a matter of fact, I think that's him calling right now.1:10 p.m. CDT --
The first round officially ended at 1:02 p.m. CDT. That's nice, isn't it? Now let's make some progress in Round 2.
Just received an email from reader Yuji Saeki in Tokyo, Japan
, wanting an update on the Japanese players and my thoughts on them.
Here are my thoughts on a couple of them:
Yuta Ikeda is carrying the flag for the Japanese at the moment after a solid 1-under 71 in the first round (he's just started his second round). Ikeda's is a name that is becoming more familiar in the American golfing community.
He's played nine events in the U.S. this season, highlighted by a tie for 22nd at Doral. Clearly he has a nice game and has been a force on the Japan Golf Tour, racking up five victories since 2009.
Then there's the rock star we're all familiar with already, 19-year-old Ryo Ishikawa. What an incredible talent. I can't wait to watch Ryo up against the likes of Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and Rory McIlroy for years and years to come.
At the moment though, he's struggling mightily at Whistling Straits. Ishikawa had a 4-over 76 in the first round and doesn't start his second round until 4:35 this afternoon. He's certainly got the game to turn it around -- after all, this is the same guy who shot a final-round 58 to win The Crowns event in Japan earlier this season. 12:30 p.m. CDT --
Looks like the 13th isn't all about bad luck. The storms that were expected to crush Whistling Straits this afternoon seem to be pushing away from the area. That's good news for everyone and Matt Kuchar is loving it.
Kuchar had about 45 minutes from the time his first round ended and his second round started. During that time, he hit some balls on the range, rolled a few putts on the practice green and then picked up right where he left off on the course with a birdie at No. 2 to get to 6 under.
I don't want to brag or anything, but that 12-under winning score prediction I made yesterday is looking better and better.
About that weather ... While it's nice now, we are expecting at least something in the way of precipitation eventually. Hopefully it's just light rain -- the guys can play through that. As it stands now, Tiger Woods won't tee off until 5:45 p.m. CDT. We're not going to finish the second round today, but we sure could put a dent in it, which could get us back on schedule once play ends on Saturday (there's a 50-50 chance of thunderstorms on Saturday).
Keep those fingers crossed.
Here's an email from Luke in Madison, Wis.
I was in the spot on 18, behind the green and to the right of the TV studio you are or were in on Wednesday. If I was going to be there this weekend, which I'm not, I would make sure I was on the first shuttle to the course and would run to that spot. It's a perfect spot, even better if they have to go threesomes. I hope the weather holds off for the guys today, it would be nice for the course to dry out and firm up a bit to make it even more challenging. Looking forward to catching up with the coverage tonight, courtesy of my DVR. Thanks for the updates throughout the day.
Like I said, probably my favorite spot on the course, too. And I agree with Luke -- if you want it, get on that first shuttle!11:45 a.m. CDT --
Remember earlier when I was talking about it being cool out here? That's not the case anymore. Now it's just downright muggy.
Up by the clubhouse to my right are beautiful blue skies. To my left, it's not looking so good. Over on the range I can see Ernie Els, Dustin Johnson and D.A. Points getting some work in.
Phil Mickelson made a great up and down on No. 18 to finish his first round with a 1-over 73. It'll be a quick turnaround for Lefty. He'll start his second round in 45 minutes.11:25 a.m. CDT --
We're now an hour and a half into the day's play and the skies still look threatening. According to the forecast, there's an 85-percent chance of a thunderstorm at 1 p.m. CDT. By the looks of things, it might be here sooner than that.
Since we last checked in, a lot has happened. Matt Kuchar is the leader in the house after a spectacular 5-under 67, while Ernie Els got into the clubhouse at 4-under 68.
I also got a bunch of emails, so let's flesh some of them out now.
From Mark in Green Bay
Enjoyed reading the blog after work last night, it gave me a feel of what to expect tomorrow when I get to be there in person to see it for myself. This will be my first time at any golf tournament as a spectator so I am comparing it to going to the Super Bowl for your first NFL game. As a first timer, I know what I will see in person will be much different to what we are exposed to on TV.
Based on your experience as a spectator and not a reporter, do you recommend picking a spot on the course to see all groups come through (get to see everyone), following one group around the whole course (get to see the whole course) or a little of both. I am going to be monitoring your blog all day today and hope that you stay dry when the rain comes through in a couple of hours.
Great analogy, Mark -- making a trip to a major championship for your first golf tournament is akin to making your first NFL game the Super Bowl. The only difference is, you'll have much better seats since you can change them as often as you'd like, and you'll be so close to the action that it'll feel as if you're playing along with these guys.
My advice would be to get here early. You don't necessarily have to follow one group in particular, but definitely make it a point to get a good look at the course. You'll be blown away. Whistling Straits looks magnificent on TV, but it's even better in person. I know I keep putting an emphasis on the lakeside holes, but I can't help it. They're mesmerizing. I'm from Rhode Island -- the Ocean State -- and it blows my mind how massive Lake Michigan is. Along those cliffs, it looks more like the ocean.
After you've seen the whole course, determine where your favorite spot is and camp out there. For me, I usually like to pick a place where I can see multiple holes since there is always a little downtime between groups. If you can see multiple holes from one spot, it makes it much more exciting. I hope that helps.Kristin Seddon in Madison, Wis.
, saw something on Monday …Hey TJ ... I was there for the practice round on Monday? Can they use rangefinders?
Kristin, the players (and caddies) can use rangefinders, but only during the practice rounds.
From Grant Zellner in Edmond, Okla.
:Today on 16, Phil Mickelson hit a bad bunker shot. After his shot, he made a little practice swing and definitely took sand.
Can you do that?
Grant, I didn't see the shot myself, but as long as Phil's ball made it out of the bunker -- and didn't go into another bunker -- there is no penalty for taking sand on a practice swing after your shot has been played. 10:30 a.m. –
Almost as if to emphasize the Friday the 13th theme, the driving range and the practice greens at Whistling Straits are absolute ghost towns. Nobody on them. Not a soul.
That's extremely rare for a major championship, but considering the circumstances with all the delays and the first round still quite a ways from being completed, it actually makes sense.
Regardless, it's just bizarre to see an empty range at a major. Kind of spooky, actually.
Email time. This one comes from Gareth Elliott in New York by way of Northern Ireland
, which makes what he wrote not much of a surprise:Can please talk about the domination of the Mighty Northern Irish ... given such a small country to have players such as Clarke, McDowell and McIlroy isn't too bad ... I don't blame Tiger for not wanting to play in the Ryder Cup ... running scared!!!
The Northern Irish have been dominating, there's no doubt about that, Gareth. And, when all is said and done, McIlroy might prove to be the best of the bunch. Your buddy Darren has some work to do if he's going to make the team –- he's currently No. 27 on the World Points List and No. 21 on the European Points List.
Then again, Big D is never a bad captain's pick as we saw at the K Club in 2006.
From Ralph Kummerow in parts unknown
:Fog delays, possible rain or thunderstorms heading your way, maybe having to play on Monday (or, who knows? Tuesday?) which of the notables, or players having the potential to win this fourth major, can handle the delays and uncertainties of schedules? Who will be upset and let the delays disrupt their game, and who has the patient personality to take it all in stride?
Great question, Ralph. A quick look at the board and I'd have to say the delays will probably be most bothersome to a guy like Bubba Watson. He's a fantastic player, but admittedly struggles with A.D.D. This has got to be driving him nuts with all the waiting. He finished his first round Thursday afternoon and doesn't know when he'll begin Round 2 (later today? Possibly Saturday?).
Who will take it in stride? They don't call Ernie Els the "Big Easy" for nothing. He's as patient as they come on the golf course. I also think it benefits a player like Jim Furyk, who's lurking at even par. Furyk is a slow player as it is, so I don't imagine this is hurting him much.
It could also be good for Tiger. I know, that's probably what you were expecting me to say. But, seriously. He's still trying to work out the kinks in his swing and was seen working with swing coach Sean Foley on the range Thursday evening. With a nice 1-under start, Tiger likes his position. The more time to hone in on what's wrong with his swing and fix it, the better for Tiger.10:00 a.m. CDT --
Standing out by the 18th green, the wind is significantly stronger than it was at the same time yesterday. It's also much cooler, which of course is relative during these dog days of summer. Right now, we're probably in the mid-70s and rising.
The skies are still gray, but it looks like the sun is trying hard to peak through the clouds.
Stu Ingraham, a PGA Professional playing in his sixth PGA Championship at age 51, just hit an outstanding shot from the front, right bunker on No. 18, knocking it to roughly 4 feet. Unfortunately, he missed the putt, made bogey and made the turn at 2 over. Tough break.
Sitting here right now, I've found the answer to the question many of you have been asking: where's the best spot on the golf course to take in the action?
I'm partial to No. 17, which sits along Lake Michigan and is just an awesome view. However, here at No. 18 isn't so bad either. From my spot behind the green, I have a perfect vantage point to see the approach shots coming into No. 18 and No. 9. You can also see both greens quite easily, too.9:30 a.m. CDT --
With ominous skies and a heavy fog hanging over Whistling Straits, the place has the feel of the start of a horror movie. Fitting, I guess, seeing as this is Friday the 13th.
For the second consecutive day, heavy fog has forced an extended delay. Play is expected to resume at 9:40 a.m. CDT, but there are rumblings that rain could be on the way with a chance of lightning shortly after play resumes.
Bubba Watson and Francesco Molinari each finished their first round on Thursday, turning in 4-under 68s for a share of the clubhouse lead.
Matt Kuchar, Ernie Els and Nick Watney are also at 4 under, but are still waiting to complete their first round.
Dinner had to taste extra delicious for Watney, who made an eagle on No. 12 Thursday, his last hole of the day when play was suspended due to darkness.
What will unfold during the second round? The short answer: hopefully some golf!