Jul
29
2016
Best/Worst of Friday at PGA Championship: Day, Rory and Phil lead the way
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Championship

Here are the top best/worst of moments, happenings and quotes from the second round of the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club. In other words, my random thoughts and ramblings from the day. Don’t forget to keep up with the latest and most current behind-the-scenes updates this week(end) via social media channels–Twitter, Instagram and Facebook–especially SnapChat (username: stephwei — don’t need to be active on the app, but download it)!

*JASON DAY

Where do we start? Day shot an impressive five-under 65 and he didn’t even take advantage of the par-5s (17 & 18)! After making a double-bogey on no. 7, he went on a ridiculous streak and birdied seven of the next eight. Following a two-under 68, Day is seven-under at the halfway mark, which puts him two shots behind leaders Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb. In other words, he’s in great position to defend his championship.

However, naturally, he did feel like he left a few strokes out there.

“I parred 17 and 18 yesterday and did the exact same thing today,” said Day. “I was a little bit more conservative after the chip shot on 18, after seeing what Rory did. I didn’t want to do that and give a shot back. So I made sure that I got it up there and gave myself an opportunity. The one on 17, if I birdied that, I was like stealing one really. I hit a terrible driver there and hooked it up in the grandstand, nice shot over the trees and hit a pretty good pitching wedge up near the hole. Unfortunately didn’t hole that.

“I said before, I’m just trying to save them for the weekend. If I can do that, that would be nice.”

Don’t forget, Day had never seen the golf course until he played a “quick” 18 on Wednesday, electing to take off Monday for “family time” and Tuesday for extra rest since he felt under the weather after possibly catching a cold from his kids, who are sick. (Also worth noting that unlike the majority of Tour pros, Day always travels with his family and they stay in an RV bus, so that’s kinda like being a daycare teacher — lots of germs in a contained space.)

But if Day was going to pick one venue to have limited “preparation and practice,” Baltusrol was the place to do it. As I wrote on Tuesday (don’t pay attention to the names I picked, but just focus on the word “bombers” or “long-hitters,” like Day, Walker, Stenson, Koepka, etc):

While some were concerned with Jason Day seeing the golf course for the first time on Wednesday, it doesn’t seem like it would be as big of a deal as it might elsewhere. Baltusrol is a grind, but it’s straightforward and pretty much right in front of you. Also, though the greens are guarded by bunkers, they’re generally to the side, so there’s room to run the ball up the front.

With Day making his third straight starts in as many countries, it appears he made the right call. And he also had lower expectations because of the circumstances, which freed him up a bit.

“Because I was a little bit sick at the start of the week and under the weather, so a lot of the expectation came down,” said Day, the defending champion. “I think being able to kind of voice where I’m at mentally and physically with my health takes a lot of expectations off my shoulders and lets everyone know that I don’t have a lot of expectation coming to the week.

“Also having Monday and Tuesday off, being able to rest and recover where some guys have come out — I played with Rich Berberian on Wednesday and he was here since Saturday and it’s been hot. So you can kind of wear yourself out.

“I’m very lucky with this golf course because it’s kind of all out in front of you. There’s not a lot of tricks to it other than the mountain effect that can have on the greens. For the most part it’s straightforward. We’ve come up with a game plan that kind of works. I played the practice round on Wednesday very quick. I didn’t want to be in the sun too long.

“From there, with the lower expectations and having a great back side today, kind of bolted me into contention. It’s good to be in position, so I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

Keep it up. And this was no doubt the most adorable moment of the day (no pun intended):

On a funny note, Day was still up for offering his services as an Uber driver when he got into his courtesy car this evening… jason day LOL. (Wish I could figure out how to insert emojis in the text! Or if I’m even able to, but I’m sure it’ll happen soon!)


*SNAPS FROM FRIDAY ICYMI…you don’t get the same effect, but I’ve uploaded my SnapChat story from the second round/Friday to YouTube. Like I said, better to follow on the app. (Not just begging for followers/more views — just sayin’.)


 

*RORY MCILROY

I followed Rory, Jason and Phil Mickelson for the first five holes, and damn, Rory was striking it so pure. As you’ve heard before, that sound when the ball comes off the club… it’s just not the same. There are probably about a handful of players that make you go, WOW, when you hear them make contact (Dustin Johnson with the driver, Henrik Stenson, etc.). But man, Rory’s putting — I don’t even know what to say, but I think it was more painful and nerve-wracking for him standing over the ball than it was for us watching him on the greens. He wasn’t afraid to admit to his weakness, either. “Tee to green was good, but it was just pathetic when I got onto the green,” said a disheartened McIlroy. His words, not ours. How bad was it? Well, according to Golf Channel’s Justin Ray, Rory was ranked 1st in strokes gained off the tee, but then around the greens he was 143rd and just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, he was a dismal 151st (out of 156) in putting. However, there appeared to be a glimmer of hope that McIlroy would survive and try to fight back over the weekend when he made a 30-footer on no. 17 for birdie to get inside the cut line. Then, on the next hole, he took two chips from the rough right of the green and bogeyed the par-5 18th to miss by one after posting a three-over total. “I’ve hit the ball really well this week and I’m walking away not playing the weekend,” he said. “It’s really disheartening. As I said, I need to go back to the drawing board and see where we go from here.” Again, he knows his greatest weakness — it’s not like it’s a new thing. “Putting,” said McIlroy when asked which part of his game needed work. “Putting let me down at Merion. Let me down at Merion. I think I missed the cut there, too, didn’t I? Oakmont, and then putting let me down here again. “My tee to green game, there’s not much wrong with that. It’s pretty solid. Driving the ball well, hitting good iron shots. I think if you had to given anyone else in this field my tee shots this week, they would have been up near the top of the leaderboard. It just shows you how bad I was around the greens.” This is the first year since 2010 that McIlroy has missed two cuts at majors in the same year. Better putting at The Barclays, hopefully…     


  *PHIL MICKELSON Phil kicked off the second round in style. First, he pushed his tee shot out-of-bounds right onto the road, inspiring a group of fans and media to make a run for it to see if they could find it. I was standing on the tee as I followed this marquee group for the first five holes, but damn, the aerial view from the broadcast was such a better view of the shot. https://twitter.com/PGAcom/status/759096119729139712 Then, he pulled the next one way right. It was in the trees and crap, but according to a CBS spotter, a “meathead” fan kicked the ball, giving Lefty a better shot to the hole. However, Phil dropped it back as close as possible to the original spot. He had a decent recovery shot (because as we know, he loves those and gets a lot of practice). https://twitter.com/PGAcom/status/759101633338806272 Unfortunately, Phil made a triple-bogey seven to kick off his second round. “I think in the history of the PGA Championship, that’s the worst start of any player’s round,” Phil cracked. “I’d have to look that up.” But, really, he wasn’t shy to admit how terrible he started. “I had the worst start,” said Mickelson. “I don’t even know what to say. It was just a pure mental block. I striped it on the range. I’ve been driving it really, really straight. I can’t say long because I can’t even sniff Day and McIlroy in my group. Been hitting it really straight. “Just a total mental block on that first hole. And I don’t even know what to say. It was just horrific. I was able to fight back and be patient from there on out, start to make a birdie here or there. I actually hit a lot of good shots and missed on a lot good opportunities in the middle of the round.” Well, he managed to fight back and play the last 17 holes at three-under to post an even-par 70 and one-over 36-hole total to survive to see the weekend. And yes, he knew that he had to at least par the 18th to make the cut on the number, but a birdie to be safe. “I hit two solid hybrids on the last of it to make the cut and to give me the chance to play the weekend,” said Mickelson. “I’m having a difficult time right now managing my expectations, because I know how well I’m playing and I’m so result oriented that I’m not playing very relaxed, free golf like I did at the British, like I did in the preparation here. “Tomorrow I’m going to try to go out and not worry about the score and just play a good round because I’ve been hitting a lot of good shots. I’m trying to force the issue because I know you’ve got to get hot out here. “After just making the cut, I’m able to scale back my expectations for the week, enjoy the two days on the weekend and showcase just how well I have been playing. There’s good chance it probably won’t be enough, but still it’s fun to play good golf.” In other news, Phil gave a fan a bit of grief on no. 10 after hitting him in the arm on his drive. It was like a Caddyshack moment when he explained the situation after his round. “The guy was holding his arm,” said Mickelson, with a cheeky grin. “He wouldn’t let go of his arm. I was saying how in Ohio I tagged a guy from the head and he wasn’t holding his head. He was just walking around like, look, it happens, it’s okay, I’m cool with it. And this guy gets a little tiny ding on his arm and he’s like not letting go. I roughed him up a little bit over that. I looked back he was still holding his arm. I don’t know.” Basically, Phil was calling the dude out. Respect. I think?  


*ROBERT STREB It took me a moment to register that Streb shot *that* number at a major — my bad, Streb fired a seven-under 63 on Friday, which included a birdie on no. 9 (his last), not to mention three other ones on the front side. It marked the 30th time a player (only 28 have done so) had posted a 63 at a major championship history and the third to do so this season (Phil Mickelson, first round at the Open; Henrik Stenson, final round at the Open). Streb’s 36-hole total of nine-under matched Jimmy Walker to take a share of the lead going into the weekend. “I didn’t make a very good putt at it on 8,” said Streb in his post-round presser. “I was just trying to give it a chance; if it went in, great. If not, it was still a good round. Happy to join the club that seems to be ever-growing.” That last comment made me grin (maybe it’s just me?). “I was pretty excited about it,” he said, referring to the the birdie putt on no. 9. “I was waiting on it to break, waiting on it to break and it finally turned there at the end. But it was a great round. Happy to be a part of that 63 club I guess. “My putt on 8 was fairly pathetic effort (laughing)…but made up for it on 9.” Streb hasn’t had a great season, with no finishes in the top-10 in his last 27 starts — dating back to the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. “Most of the year has been a big struggle,” he said. “Kind of been a struggle since the PGA last year. Kind of felt like I kind of found something with my golf swing the last two weeks. Started hitting it kind of solid, feeling a little bit like my golf swing again, and obviously made a bunch of putts today.” Streb has never held/share of the lead after 36 holes at a major. With names like Jason Day and Henrik Stenson looming closely behind him, he said the key is to stay focused on his own game and not get caught up watching what the big names are doing (if paired with one). “It’s a major,” said Streb when asked for his thoughts on the stars not far behind him on the leaderboard. “One of those guys is going to be there. They are always there. “Just try not to get too hung up in what’s going on, and try to stick to the golf and see if I can have a little fun while I’m at it.”  


  *JIMMY WALKER     Despite a bogey on the par-5 18th, Walker shot a second-round four-under 66 to post a total nine-under 131, tying the lowest ever 36-hole score in PGA Championship history. He hasn’t been driving it too accurately, but as many thought, distance trumps the former at Baltusrol.  Basically, because the rough wasn’t going to be too penal — or gnarly for the most part and the farther you miss the fairway, the better lie you have — the long-hitters would still have an advantage since they have short enough irons and/or wedges into the greens, which have been softened throughout the week with the rain.  Walker, however, has been excellent around and on the greens. I enjoyed what he had to say about the greens (just because people have asked me about them since they don’t look great on TV).  

You’ve still got to pick the line, put a good stroke on it, and more often than not, when you do that, on any green, a lot of times, they just kind of roll right through all the junk. That being said, you’re going to get a few bad breaks here and there, when the poa gets — and they were soft.  The greens were soft. We had a lot of foot traffic today and we had a lot of rain last night, and you knew going into the day at the end of the day they were going to get a little bumpy. There were spots on the greens that look like they got burned out and they were quicker than the rest of the green and you’re always kind of trying to judge a little bit.  Coming down the last hole, I had I think the longest putt you could have on the golf course basically. It’s tough to judge, up, and down, and then back up and I left it a little short. I felt like I put a good stroke on the last putt and it looked like it kind of just wiggled around a little bit, and it’s just part of bent, poa mix.

 On the other hand, Mickelson lauded the greens as “pristine.” I haven’t really heard any complaints other than the normal, expected “poa” green remarks — like Walker pointed out. Yeah, they don’t look great on TV and they get a bit bumpy late in the day, but that’s expected; otherwise, they seem to have been rolling fine.  Back to Walker’s errant driving, which were displayed for the world on the telecast on the last two holes.  “I started it down the left center with a draw and it had a nice, tight little draw and I thought it was going to fall out of the air, and actually catch first cut or the fairway, and it just kind of kept going,” said Walker, referring to the drive that ended up in the hazard on no. 18.  “I don’t know where it landed. They said it landed obviously outside of the rough; the CBS guys were down there. Landed and kicked left into the lake. It had a little draw on it and that whole thing banks to the right. It could easily have kicked right. “I felt like I hit a good one drive there, after not hitting a couple bad tee shots left in a row, I got up there, I’m going, I’m sending it, right down the middle. Could just have easily hit a 3-iron off the tee but wanted to post something out there. Put a good swing on it after not putting a good swing on a couple. Then I had 231 to the flag, 3-iron that didn’t cut much. I was trying to hit a high cut up to the middle of the green and it went straight and that’s why I went a little deep.”  Well, one thing I predicted correctly this week — Jimmy Walker = #legend 

(Can you see the comments in the embed section? <crying laughing>)


*QUOTE OF THE DAY

I enjoyed this back-and-forth between Kevin Van Valkenburg and Patrick Reed (along with the full column here).

Q. Like in society, we often ask people who are athletes, well, we want you to be self-confident because if you’re not confident enough, we don’t believe in you, but as soon as you cross a line, we’re like, he’s too cocky, and people turn against you. There’s been a weird backlash sometimes when you’re like, I believe in myself, and I believe I’m a top-three player, why wouldn’t I believe in that?
PATRICK REED: I appreciate you saying top three, because I said top five, and I appreciate you calling me cocky, as well. I don’t really know how to take that one — you have to believe in yourself. If there was not a mic around and you went out and asked every single guy, and if they knew you weren’t media and they went out and you asked every single guy, where do you want to be, they are going to say No. 1 in the world. And if they don’t, then those guys also aren’t winning every week or even having a chance to win golf tournaments because they are not believing in themselves.

But really at the end of the day, when it comes down to it, yeah, I believe in myself. I play golf. I am who I am. And at the end of the day, it’s not — I’m not writing the articles. It comes down to how you all portray me, not how I portray myself, because I didn’t write the article. There’s been some I fixed and some that are true and I like the articles.

But at the end of the day, all I can do is play golf and be who I am, and hopefully I’ll write the good ones.

First of all, c’mon, KVV, how did you not remember that it was top-five??? Okay, fine, you don’t cover golf full-time, so the fact that you even remember/know that remark should be lauded.

Secondly, well played, Reed, well played. On a more serious note, can we talk about how someone needs to tell him that Tiger Woods in the late ’90s called and wants his awful pleated pants back? K, thanks.


 

*LAST WORD


*FINAL TWEET

Oh, I know the feeling, Teddy, I do! The one useful piece of advice/knowledge I gave anyone this week was to a Twitter buddy/reader who asked me to pick one name out of nine or something and I replied “Probably Walker.”

I mean, most of the names on the first page of the leaderboard *are* big-hitters or known as strong ballstrikers (i.e. Walker, Henrik Stenson, Day, Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama, Emilano, etc.), so at least we got that part right.

*LAST LAUGH

Just had to share this video that Graeme McDowell RT’d, where a fan recorded the telecast, catching a hilarious moment when G-Mac muttered some choice words after hitting his tee shot.

Turn the volume up and you’ll get a kick.

SO good, right? Love it.