At this 100th edition of the PGA Championship, the winner might already be Mother Nature. The loser? A tough Bellerive Country Club golf course that has been neutered by rains.
The PGA of America has been working for months to prepare Bellerive to host the 4th and final major of 2018. They plied money into improving bunkering, shaping fairways, letting the rough grow lush, and making the greens pristine and quick. And after all that preparation, plus trying to keep everything alive and well during weeks of 90+ degree heat, the rains came. Heavy downpours before the week began, during Tuesday’s practice round, and even suspending Friday’s 2nd round action (including some apparent hail).
The course was already softened by the rains before Thursday’s start. But with the additional precipitation, the course won’t play long so much as it will play easy. Inaccurate drivers can take less club off the tee with knowledge that if they get it in the fairway, they can still hit a longer club and keep the ball on the green and on their intended line. No firm bounces, so slick ridges and plateaus. Target golf at it’s finest. And since the field is the best players in the world, these guys can definitely play target golf.
For the UGA contingent, Bubba Watson surprised the most but not in a good way. His opening even par 70 was followed by a 78 Friday morning. Before the rains came, other golfers carded 9 rounds of 65 or better, including 2 tournament record-tying 63s. Bubba just didn’t have it.
Since the rain came about 3:30 pm, about half the field was still on the course when play was suspended. Of those who did not finish their round was Brian Harman. His Thursday 72 wasn’t great, but the cut line looks to be at even par or 1 under par, and Brian is currently +1 total with 5 holes to play.
Russell Henley started off poorly with a 74, but a 65 in his 2nd round moved him up 74 spots and likely safe inside the cut line with a -1 total.
Chris Kirk also finished his 2nd round. Thursday resulted in a 68 with a hot putter. Friday wasn’t as good with the flat stick, but even par 70 keeps him at 2 under par and playing the weekend.
The story is Kevin Kisner. Kisner was very much in contention at last year’s PGA Championship, and has steadily risen up the ranks and become one of America’s top 20 golfers. He shared the lead going into last month’s Open Championship eventually finishing in 2nd place. He kept his mojo, and fired a blistering 64 Friday, which when combined with this first round 67 puts him at 2nd place at 9 under par.
He is 1 stroke off the pace by his playing companion and extremely long hitter Gary Woodland (64-66). Woodland is a crowd favorite, or at least a crowd focal point. With the crowd being mostly Missouri-centric (Bellerive is in St. Louis), the Kansas Jayhawk had a large following, and he put on a show. Between Kisner and Woodland, they shot a mythical best-ball of 11 under 59... each golfer pushing the other as they both went low.
We will see what the resumption of the 2nd round Saturday morning means... the expectation is that the conditions will be super soft and the scores will be super low. Tune in to TNT from 8:00 am ET - 2 pm ET, at which time CBS will pick up the TV coverage until conclusion of play.
And as always...