/ 15 August 2009

Tiger turns windswept PGA into one-man show

Tiger Woods had plenty of company at the top of the leaderboard but they all eventually fall by wayside as he turned the second round of the 91st PGA Championship into a one-man show.

The 33-year-old Woods showed why he is the ultimate grinder, posting a two-under 70 on Friday to ward off a host of challengers and seize control of the windswept $7,5-million event.

Woods extended his lead to four strokes on a day of subdued scoring after gusts kicked up at the Hazeltine National Golf Club.

”It was a tough day all around,” said Woods, who is a perfect eight for eight in majors when holding the lead going into the weekend. ”The wind was blustery. It was hard to be aggressive because you didn’t want to run it past the hole.

”I just plod along, see what happens. I got off to a poor start today but hung in there.”

With a win at Hazeltine, the world number one would tie Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus for most wins in PGA Championship history with five and claim his 15th career major, three shy of the all-time record set by Nicklaus.

Woods finished 36 holes on seven-under 137 and is a remarkable 32 of 38 when he has lead after the first two rounds.

Defending champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland, United States Open champion Lucas Glover, two-time PGA Championship winner Vijay Singh of Fiji, England’s Ross Fisher and Australian Brendan Jones all shared second on 141.

Woods managed to extend his lead on the back nine despite posting three bogeys after a bogey-free 67 in the opening round.

”We are all feeling the pressure,” Woods said. ”It is a major.

If you are not feeling the pressure you shouldn’t be playing.”

Woods had back-to-back birdies on the front, rolling in a 15-foot putt on No. 6 and a five footer on the seventh to reach six-under. That enabled him to regain sole possession of the lead.

”Today could have been worse,” Woods said. ”I could easily have shot over par but I turned it into an under-par round.”

On the back nine, Woods posted three consecutive birdies at holes 14, 15 and 16. He could have gone lower but just missed an eagle putt on the par-four 352-yard 14th.

Woods did not compete in the 2008 PGA Championship after having surgery on his left knee, missing a chance to defend the title he won in 2007.

Harrington, who shot 68 on Thursday, hung in there, letting it be known that he doesn’t plan on letting Woods get too far out of sight.

The two-time British Open champion shot a one-over 73 to join the others at three-under 141.

”I’m a little bit disappointed with the finish,” Harrington said.

”It was a struggle. We knew the wind would be swirling among the trees. You just had to have your wits about you.”

Harrington birdied the par-three, 210-yard fourth hole to join Woods and three others in a tie for the lead.

He then used a superb second shot to birdie No. 9 and get to five under. Harrington parred the next hole to move into a tie with Woods, who made a bogey on the hole.

England’s Fisher, who shot a 68, also flirted with the lead on the back nine but had back-to-back bogeys to finish his round.

Eighty players made the cut and will go into the weekend. That is good news for Phil Mickelson, who avoided missing the cut in a PGA Championship for the first time since 1995.

The left-handed American shot his second straight two-over 74 but still managed to sneak in at the cut line. Mickelson posted four bogeys, a double bogey, an eagle and a birdie in his round.

”The struggling on the greens is carrying over to my focus on some other shots,” Mickelson said. ”But I don’t feel I’m hitting it bad. I don’t feel like I am striking it horrendously. It’s just I’m having trouble scoring right now.”

This is only the fourth tournament since May for the 39-year-old Mickelson, who took a break to care for his wife and mother who are going through breast cancer treatment. — Sapa-AFP