Hey golf fans, this is Will Leivenberg and I will be live-blogging the opening round of the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler, WI, the season's final major championship. In a season of surprise, golf fans have been stunned by everything from first-time major champions, more than ten under 30-year-old winners, and watched the No.1 ranked player, Tiger Woods, crumble and stumble in hopes of reasserting his dominance. Whistling Straits, the links-style course, will be an absolutely grueling, pressure-filled test, especially if the swirling winds off of Lake Michigan start 'whistling.'
Bubba Watson persevered through the breezy conditions and turned in a four-under par 68 and leads the tournament. But creeping up behind are a few threatening figures, such as Matt Kuchar, who is currently 3-under, as well as Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson.
Slowly, they're all dropping back. Both Howell III and Day bogeyed their final hole and are now a shot behind leader Bubba Watson, who sits at 4-under.
Tiger somehow saved par at the par-5th, showing some kind of fortitude.
Here is what no on wanted to see: Tiger Woods struck his ball and just milliseconds into his finish he launched his club as his ball took off so far left that it still hasn't come down. It's undoubtedly out of bounds and there goes his under-par score.
Bubba Watson pierced his drive over 300 yards down the middle of the fairway on No. 15, but wasn't sure whether to go driver off the deck or pummel his three-wood. He ended up harshly pulling the three wood, but chipped it to within five feet.
Jason Day has made five birdies and just one bogey in his round and has a share of the lead.
After a bogey at No.2 Woods and par at No.3, he is at 1-under par, three behind the leader Charles Howell, who just scrambled to save par and stay at 4-under.
Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Jason Day and John Merrick are all at 3-under.
Both Jason Day and Charles Howell II have played bogey-free thus far in their rounds.
Tiger has blown up on his second hole after a terrible tee shot, wayward second out of the bunker, only to hit into another bunker on his third.
Due to the weather delay, more than 75 players have yet to tee off.
Bubba Watson and Ryan Moore made birdies to get to 3-under par, within a stroke of the lead.
Tiger Woods just pushed an iron out of the bunker totally wayward and is now near the walking path of the public.
Kyung-tae Kim, the kind of completely unheard of player that always finds himself in the mix at a major, is just one behind leaders Jason Day and Charles Howell III at 3-under par.
There's an abundance of talent at 2-under par currently, including both Molinari brothers, Tiger Woods, Ryan Moore, and Camillo Villegas.
Charles Howell (-4) and Jason Day (-3) are at the top of the leaderboard. Did anyone see this coming?
Appleby by makes his second bogey to drop to 1-under par through 13 holes.
Tiger Woods just missed his birdie putt on the 18th hole by inches and stays at 2-under par going into the front nine.
Tiger looks like he's back. He just struck what looked like a 4-iron into the wind from 228-yards and stuck it to about 12 feet on the 18th hole.
Through his first seven holes, Camillo Villegas has regained his form and is 3-under.
Charles Howell III's rhythm looks simply unflappable. His swing has always been picture perfect mechanically, but who knows if it's his week to shine.
After fading the ball a little more than he'd hoped, Tiger found the right edge of the par-3 17th. In one of his most fluid strokes of the day, Tiger came up just inches before the hole, probably one rotation short of a birdie. He sits just one shot back of leader Charles Howell III who is at 4-under par.
Most important ingredient to Tiger's Success today: Accuracy off the tee
The course is playing relatively soft. What's interesting is that while the course may aesthetically appear to be a links course, it in fact plays like an American one. The wetness of the early morning dew and fog has created ideal scoring conditions on the greens.
Edwardo Molinari just drained his birdie putt at the sixth hole to get to 2-under par.
Tiger Woods stroked an eagle putt directly on line, but just a little too strong causing it to jump over the hole. He then just burned the edge for his birdie putt, settling for par 5, still at 2-under par.
Charles Howell III is officially the outright leader, carding four birdies through five holes.
Tiger bogeys and drops a stroke, now one off the lead at 2-under par for the Championship.
John Daly's score is not of note (currently +2), but his outfit has epitomized ridiculous. He is officially the new spokesperson for Orange Julius.
Paul Casey just chipped in and is still in the mix at 1-under par.
Guess what under-performer has found his way into a share of the lead? Mr. Mechanical himself--Charles Howell III.
Appleby makes the turn with a share of the lead at 3-under par. Rickie Fowler just made his birdie to get back to even-par.
Just as Tiger Woods was in his backswing he abruptly stopped and looked behind him, obviously stunned by some sound or flash from behind him. However, he regrouped and hit a solid drive down the left side of the 14th hole.
Kaymer has drawn a brutal lie way above his feet in deep rough, but chopped it out and within ten feet hoping to salvage a par.
Woods, Appleby and Kaymer share the lead 3-under par.
Anthony Kim is currently even-par. after draining a six foot birdie putt. He's a player to keep an eye on because though he is recovering from an injury, he has the potential to post a ton of birdies, memorably carding a record 11 birdies in the Masters two years ago.
Bo Van Pelt continues to be in the mix at 1-under par.
Kaymer is incredibly dialed in and continues to stick iron shots close to the pins, giving himself opportunities to make birdies.
Old Tiger Woods, Welcome back: 3-under par through three holes.
LOOK OUT: Tiger is two-under through three holes and just stuck a wedge to eight feet on no.13.
Jim Furyk also seems to have found his groove, especially with his irons by controlling his spin.
Both Padraig Harrington and Retief Goosen, who have major potential to come out on top this week, just drained their birdie putts.
Can someone please tell Bubba Watson to loosen up? Unbutton part of the shirt, try a regular hat instead of the visor and just relax.
The 18th hole is nicknamed 'Diabolical' and it looks absolutely treacherous. Jason Day, who sits one back of the leader at 2-under par found the fairway, but after a wayward iron shot hit saw his ball nestle into the rough.
Martin Kaymer seems to have a firm grasp of the green speed, just barely lipping out his last putt on the third hole, but still leading at 3-under.
With the ball three feet above him and an awkward stance, Woods somehow crisply clipped his chip shot to three feet on the par-3 12th hole. It should be a delicate, quick putt, but those have always been Woods' specialty.
Woods just put his tee shot on the par-3 12th into the back, deep rough. The wind has picked up and he just launched a low-iron into that swirling wind and it got thrown into the rough.
Appleby has lost his lead and been replaced by youngster Martin Kaymer who leads at 3-under par.
Tiger Woods just sunk a six-foot birdie putt and is now 2-under par through two holes. It's the exact kind of quick, aggressive start that Woods needs to give him some confidence and a cushion.
Whistling Straits isn't just a challenge because of the swirling winds, thick rough, hidden pot bunkers, and undulating, fast greens. It's the blind tee-shots that truly test players accuracy, consistency, and nerves under pressure.
On the 618-yard par-5 11th, Woods pummeled his drive over 350 yards. He hit an iron to almost pin high, but sits in perfect position to be aggressive from the fringe. It looks like he will be two-under through two holes soon.
Luke Donald, Ricky Barnes, K.J. Choi, Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson, Edward Molinari and Tiger Woods are all at 1-under par.
Tiger Woods birdied his first hole.
My Dad just yelled in my ear that the PGA pros are 'cry-baby's' who should play in arduous weather conditions, like the fog. I think that while it's upsetting there was an over three-hour wait because of the relentless fog, he is ill-informed that the rule within the USGA states if player's can't see their ball land, the delay is in effect.
What do you think? Should they have played through the fog?
Two club pros are making noise early at the Championship, Kyle Flinton is 3-under par and Rob Labritz is 2-under par, while Ryo Ishikawa is currently 2-over par.
Player to watch: Luke Donald, currently 1-under par, has had an incredible season highlight by a win at the Madrid Masters, a T-11 at the British Open and five top1- finishes.
One of the most highly anticipated tee time trios -- Y.E. Yang, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods -- will tee off on the 10th tee in the next few minutes.
Scoring Update: Appleby still red-hot at 3-under par through three holes.
Developing story: Kyle Flinton, a club-pro, is 2-under par through three holes.
Rickie Fowler began his opening round with a quick birdie, but has made two bogeys since and sits at +1.
Stuart Appleby is 2-under par through his first two holes. Don't forget, Appleby shot golf's most unfathomable number --59-- just a few weeks ago in his final round to come from behind and steal the victory from Jeff Overton at the Greenbrier Classic.
Leaderboard Update: Justin Leonard, K.J. Choi, Bo Van Pelt, Stuart Appleby and Jim Furyk are all at 1-under par through two holes.
Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Ryo Ishikawa are at even par after two holes.
Weather Delay: The No.3 tee, which is a par-3 along Lake Michigan (there are 8 holes that hug the Lake), has an immense amount of fog that has not lifted. Another weather delay has begun and the USGA specifically said that when a player cannot see where the ball lands the delay is in effect.
Tiger Woods Update: 40 minutes away from his tee time. His swing looks much more compact than last week. It will be very important for him to find the fusion of his fundamentals and his touch when he makes his way to the first tee.
Steve Stricker Conundrum: Stricker may be the hometown favorite, but can he compete under major championship pressure?
I say--NO. A top-10 may be in his repertoire this week, but Stricker is first and foremost an excellent putter, but he's not very long off the tee (which is necessary on a 7500+ yards course). If he can keep it in the fairway consistently and get aggressive with irons, he may shock the world.
Two potential USA Ryder Cup players, Bo Van Pelt and Rickie Fowler, have already birdied their first hole.
Hot threesome to watch: Steve Stricker, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott
What about a guy like Ricky Barnes?
His swing may be unconventional, but Barnes leads the Tour in most rounds in the 60's on Thursday, which may be a springboard for another solid finish at a major. Barnes has consistently played well in the majors, carding a T-10 at the Masters, a T-27 at the US Open (which was plagued by two poor Friday and Saturday rounds) and a T-44 at the British Open, which could have been significantly lower had he not shot 77 on Sunday. Barnes is no longer an up-and-comer; he has established himself as one of the premiere players on Tour.
Look for Tiger's adjustment in his swing. His tendency over his last few tournaments has been for his his head to dip down in his backswing, ultimately affecting his balance. His caddie, Stevie Williams has been holding a club against his head while he swings, which has been creating some muscle memory to keep his head still.
Some think hitting rock bottom will be good for him. What do you think?
Players teeing off earliest are at a major disadvantage because the golf course is extremely wet right now. Though the fog and haze are blowing out, the players going out in the beginning will not be able to hit the ball over 280-yards off the tee and should not expect much spin with their irons.
What are the key ingredients to Tiger Woods' success?
- Accuracy off the tee: Tiger is not Bubba Watson off the tee, but he is still powerful and has great length.
- Execute and array of shots: Tiger needs to be aggressive and confident in moving the ball from left to right, playing it low under the wind, and overall just attacking pins.
- Putting speed: Woods rarely misreads greens. But, his Achilles heel over the last few months has been poor speed. He thought changing his putter might remedy the issue, but we've seen how well that change has played out. If he can regulate his speed and make sure that when he does miss putts he doesn't leave himself challenging come-backers, he will turn in a solid score.
Phil Mickelson: Mickelson obviously has extreme length--he hit a 9-iron from 181 yards on a par-3 last week. His touch around the greens is unrivaled. But, it's without question that he has struggled since his victory at the Masters in April.
Sure, he came close at the US Open, but since then he has been inconsistent, inaccurate off the tee and not given himself an opportunity to win. He essentially played himself out of contention this past Sunday at the Bridgestone, yet he is still the favorite at this week's PGA Championship.
Best thing about the PGA Championship: It is not bathed in the kind of rich history and tradition like the Masters or Open Championship. Instead, it boasts an eclectic field including the top-50 players in the world and competes at a gorgeous, challenging venue, like Whistling Straits.
Three guys to watch: Hunter Mahan, who won last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after a final round 6-under par 64, recording his second win of the season and officially earning his spot on the USA Ryder Cup Team.
Sean O'Hair: If this 28-year-old Texan can find his rhythm with his putter, he is solid enough off the tee and aggressive with his approach shots to be a real threat down the stretch.
Ross Fisher: Though his season has not been the most consistent, he understand links golf and recently won the Irish Open, carding a final round 61.
All eyes may be on Tiger Woods, but there are a plethora of young, gifted golfers in this championship who have a legitimate chance to either win, or record a solid top-10 finish.
Northern Irish sensation Rory McIlroy has the spotlight among the young guns. He shot an opening round 63 at the British Open, tying the major championship record, but has also won a tournament this season and earned four top-10 finishes.
Look out for 21-year-old Rickie Fowler, who is not only in the running for Rookie of the Year on Tour, but after playing such consistently stellar golf has created buzz among the Corey Pavin crowd that he may be considered for the USA Ryder Cup Team. Also keep your eye out for guys like 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa (who notoriously shot a 59 earlier this year), long-hitting Dustin Johnson, Ricky Barnes, Jason Day and Anthony Kim.
Can Vijay Singh recall his wondrous victory of 2004 and succeed again in 2010?
Though Singh is still an exceptional ball-striker and has great touch on and around the greens, he has struggled throughout the 2010 season, carding just two top-10's and five top-25's. There was a point a few years back when Singh represented the PGA's only viable threat to Tiger Woods. But whether it's age catching up with him (46) or just a poor showing this season, I don't think Singh is a true contender this week.
Last year's PGA Championship may have been a foreshadowing of Tiger's decline as the golf world watched his final round lead dissolve -- a true rarity -- while Y.E. Yang played the best and most compelling golf of his life to beat the world's No.1.
Some think Yang has a chance this year, but honestly--get real. Yang has only two top-10 finishes on the year and in his last four tournaments, he's missed the cut twice and finished T-60 and T-46. The only momentum he has is mental from his victory last year, which really is not enough in the tense atmosphere of a major championship.
This just in: Play will begin at 10:10 local time, 11:10 eastern time, which effectively means the first round will not be finished by all competitors.
If you are just tuning it, the PGA Championship has officially endured a two-and-a-half hour delay due to intense, relentless fog. However, the fog should dissipate within the next half hour.
Who has the best chance this week?
Some assume that because the last two major championships have been won by first-timers (Graeme McDowell at the US Open at Pebble Beach and Louis Oosthiuzen at the British Open at St. Andrews) we will see another surprise performance from an unknown, unsuspecting player.
But, considering the links-style of the course, as well as the pressure of a major championship, my money is on guys like Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Paul Casey, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, and you can never really count out TW.
The looming question on everyone's mind is undoubtedly whether or not Tiger Woods can find his groove, contain his emotions and put together a solid round of golf to put himself in contention early in the championship. When this same event was held at Whistling Straits in 2004, Woods finished T-24 at 2-under par as Vijay Singh solidified another major championship.
There's an ominous fog hanging over the driving range and the rest of the Whistling Straits Course, effectively delaying play until that fog burns off.
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