PGA Championship 2014: Winners and Losers from Day 2 at Valhalla
Day 2 at the PGA Championship was soggier than three-hour old Honey Nut Cheerios. Delicious as that may sound, especially for the dentally challenged, it made for some fairly erratic play at Valhalla Golf Club.
The conditions were so radically different that the experience from Day 1 to Day 2 barely mattered.
Rory McIlroy stands atop this field like a Colossus so naturally poised to be a winner. Ian Poulter did himself no favors with the working class, while the fans at Valhalla endured a day that was far from dry.
With a weekend forecast of plenty of sunshine and fireworks, it makes this event all the more fun, and it's important, to put Day 2 to bed by examining the winners and losers from the season’s final major.
Winner: Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler finished his day with a five-under 66 to go to seven-under in the PGA Championship. Whatever it is about the major golf tournaments, it brings out the best in Fowler.
He hasn't finished worse than fifth in the previous three majors, and he's sitting T3 at the end of Day 2. Three bogies kept Fowler from shooting a course record.
Though it wasn't a birdie, Fowler made a huge par putt on 17 to keep his score second-lowest of them all.
"It was one of those putts that kept the momentum going," Fowler said during the TNT broadcast. "To do that on 17, I hit a poor tee shot, hit a good second shot that got long on the green. Not the best chip, but all saved by a great putt."
Those types of putts don't just save holes, they save tournaments. Those are the moments that are magnified in the rearview mirror, especially if Fowler comes away victorious.
Fowler bested McIlroy Friday by one shot, and Fowler did it while playing in the afternoon when the course was chewed up and pockmarked. He's a major threat going forward.
He's proven all year long that the major stage isn't too big for him.
Loser: Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia came into the PGA Championship as hot as he’s been his entire career. The PGA Championship was when he scissor-kicked his way into our hearts in 1999.
Garcia finished the last two tournaments he played T2 and second, The Open Championship and Bridgestone Invitational, respectively. A golfer has to have an elite game to compete in those tournaments in back-to-back weeks. He finished second both times to the world-beater and world No. 1 McIlroy.
The feeling was he’d be right in the mix, sparring with his buddy McIlroy for a third straight tournament.
Coming into the PGA, Garcia was one of the favorites to win should McIlroy falter. It’s going to take a cataclysmic meltdown for McIlroy to take himself out of contention, and Garcia will have to shoot a 12-under over Saturday and Sunday just to get close.
For Garcia, two holes killed him on Days 1 and 2. He was a combined four-over on holes No. 5 and No. 6. Four bogeys on Day 2 effectively took him out of contention.
The silver lining is looking up atop the leaderboard and seeing his Ryder Cup teammates in McIlroy and (maybe) Lee Westwood playing great golf.
Winner: Jason Day
Jason Day soared up the leaderboard 18 spots.
He won the Accenture Matchplay Championship earlier this year (also on a course Jack Nicklaus designed). He's one of the more underrated players on tour, this despite being ninth in the world rankings.
He finished Day 2 at eight under par in sole position of second place. He'll play with McIlroy on Saturday and, conceivably, Sunday as well if they go punch-for-punch.
Day tallied five birdies and an eagle while shooting a six-under 65. Day is one of those players who doesn't register as one of the best, but he's got major talent, and he's not going away in the PGA Championship. The fact that he put up his score in the afternoon means his game is tight and championship-ready.
Loser: Ian Poulter
Ian Poulter shot two over par on Day 2 to make the cut at one under overall. He didn't have the best of days, on and off the course. His Friday started poorly before he teed the ball up.
Oh, when athletes rant on Twitter...
It’s easy to pile on rich people. It usually comes from a place of bitterness and bile. People who earn their fortune shouldn’t be begrudged. It must be a terribly alienating feeling. That said, the minute they claw out of the 99 percent they are no longer relatable. Not even Bruce Springsteen can pretend to be working class.
Golf is already an elitist sport by nature, and when Poulter took to Twitter with this gem, one has to wonder what was going through his mind: “Booked 6 business seats for my wife & nanny to fly home & @British_Airways downgrade my nanny so katie has no help for 10 hours with 4 kids.”
Who wants to bet the nanny did backflips all the way down the aisle to the emergency-door seat on the wing while sipping a Mai Tai?
Poulter, and all of his kind for that matter, need to read what they’re typing before they tweet. Mark Johnson’s reaction is the best, “Thoughts with you at this dark time, Ian.”
That’s priceless English wit.
Then, to balance his foibles, he chipped off a green on the ninth—a superintendent's nightmare.
(This slide could easily have been a winner for the nanny or winner for dry English wit. Oh, well.)
Winner: The Tiger Tracker
If you like snark and the possible crossbreeding of a superfan married to an Internet troll, then you love the Tiger Tracker Twitter feed. The tweets come across as someone who wants Woods to do well, but who increasingly loses his patience with Woods for not performing in the Woodsian tradition of major dominance.
He’s complimentary when Woods deserves it but then has a coach’s/father’s disdain when Woods underperforms.
Here's one on Woods' health:
“A lot of people asking me if Tiger is limping, or walking weird. Honestly, I don't know what normal is for him anymore.”
“Hello baby...laser iron off the par-3 third tee lands about 4 feet from the hole. Yeah baby.
“He misses the putt. I am not kidding. Good gravy...I swear I'd make that putt 9 out of 10 times.”
And then digging him off the tee:
“Tee shot with the driver, yes, the driver, is in the fairway at No. 5.”
Maybe Woods should hire him as his swing coach.
Here's another for good measure: "Driver goes right off the fourth tee. I need a drink."
Loser: Wet Fans, Afternoon Golfers
The rain came through and suspended play at the beginning of Day 2. Rain and golf mix about as well as Maggie Simpson and the one-eye-browed baby.
The rain also put the impossibly loyal gallery in ponchos and under umbrellas. At least no one will leave Valhalla with a sunburn.
The golfers who got out in the morning definitely benefited. The rain softened the course, and their foot strikes on the greens left indelible impressions. As a result, the afternoon’s putters saw their Pro-V 1s jump like crickets toward the hole.
Tiger Woods lipped out a birdie putt after his Nike off-roaded. The same was true with Rickie Fowler, who saw one of his par-saving putts lip out.
Winner: Rory McIlroy
Just because it's obvious to name McIlroy a winner doesn't make it any less true. The way he played through the first two days looked like video-game golf. His drives were insultingly accurate. They were arrogant in their distance.
McIlroy has so much swagger. One gets the feeling he could make these shots with his eyes closed. On top of that, each time McIlroy has shot 67 or better on Day 1 and Day 2, he has gone on to win. He’s a machine right now.
No one has inspired this kind of dominance since Woods in his physical prime.
McIlroy said on GolfChannel.com, "Mentally I’m in a really solid place in terms of not getting ahead of myself on the golf course. Staying in the present. Obviously my swing is technically in a good place at the minute. I’m confident, and I’m just on a good run.”
The conditions were ideal for McIlroy even though he didn't shoot quite as low as he did on Thursday. Bill Pennington of The New York Times wrote:
McIlroy has won his last two tournaments, including the British Open last month. He typically likes soft conditions and the Valhalla layout was soaked, giving a long hitter like McIlroy added advantage. McIlroy earned his first major title at a rain-softened Congressional Country Club outside Washington in the 2011 United States Open.
In 15 years, who will have more major titles, McIlroy or Woods?
Talk amongst yourselves.
Loser: Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods missed the cut by finishing his two rounds at six over par (T117). He had every reason to withdraw after the seventh hole, but he hung on and powered through his round.
Woods made a half-grab at his lower back, the same area that bothered him and forced him to withdraw from the Bridgestone Invitational, after his wayward tee shot on seven.
At that point the TNT commentators speculated and took metaphorical bets as to when Woods would withdraw from the tournament. They bantered whether he’d be walking to the eighth tee or the parking lot.
Golf Digest’s Ashley Mayo tweeted, “Now the announcers are placing bets on whether Tiger will head to the 10th tee or to the parking lot. It's a great time to be a golf fan.”
The Tiger Tracker tweeted, “Hate to be like this, but the WD watch is on. [Woods] Found it and advanced it, but he's walking like an old man right now.”
Then, of course, the Tiger Tracker added, “If about 12 of you following from here at Valhalla could meet me on the ninth green with a Crown and ginger that'd be great. Thanks.”
You got the sense watching the tournament that everyone genuinely wanted Woods to withdraw. Maybe they felt it was like watching a lame racehorse; They just wanted to see him put out of his misery.
A case could be made for Woods as a winner for gutting out this round. He clearly needs to sharpen his game, but it's become all too clear he needs rest and rehab more than tournament reps.