Woodland sets PGA record; leads event after two rounds
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Kansas alumnus Gary Woodland followed up a great start with a round good enough to get him in the record book Friday at the PGA Championship.
Woodland had no choice but to play well to stay ahead of Kevin Kisner and everyone else.
On a day of record scoring, Woodland had a 4-under 66 and set the PGA Championship record with a 36-hole score of 130. That was only good for a one-shot lead over Kisner, who had a chance at the PGA Championship scoring record until a bogey on his last hole for a 64.
Just ahead of them, two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 9. He had to settle for being the 15th player in PGA Championship history to shoot a 63.
And then Charl Schwartzel made it 16 players with his eight-birdie round of 63.
“I’m not too worried with what anyone else is doing out there,” Woodland said. “The golf course is gettable, I think. If you drive the golf ball in play, the greens were rolling a little bit better today. I think we’ll see some putts go in.”
They were going in for just about everybody.
Woodland’s 36-hole score broke the PGA record by one shot, most recently set by Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb at Baltusrol. It also tied the 36-hole record for all majors, matching Jordan Spieth at the Masters (2015), Martin Kaymer at the U.S. Open (2014) and Brandt Snedeker (2012) an Nick Faldo (1992) at the British Open.
Koepka ran off three straight birdies after he made the turn and came to the par-5 ninth at 7 under for the round. He hit his approach 20 feet above the hole and didn’t know a record was at stake — until after he missed.
“I was just trying to make the thing, and I really thought I made it,” Koepka said. “My caddie said something walking off. I didn’t even think of it. I’ve been so in the zone, you don’t know where you are.”
Koepka was at 8-under 132, two shots behind.
Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 player, had a 66 and joined Schwartzel and Thomas Pieters (66) at 133.
Woodland and Kisner played in the same group, and they offered a great example that Bellerive is accommodating to just about any game. Woodland is among the most powerful players in golf. Kisner is not. He relies more on a clean hit with his irons and a great short game.
The course is so soft — not so much from Tuesday’s rain, but the extreme heat that requires more water on the turf — that every flag is accessible provided players find the ample fairways.
“Greens are receptive, so my 4-iron stops as quick as his 7-iron,” Kisner said. “If they were firm, I don’t think I would have a chance with the way the greens are situated and the places they’re putting the flags. But being receptive, that’s my only hope.”
Jordan Spieth still has hope in his second try at a career Grand Slam. Spieth didn’t get under par for the tournament until his seventh hole Friday — the par-3 16th hole — and he managed to do enough right for a 66 to get within seven shots of the lead.
Spieth has battled with his game all year, and his confidence isn’t at its peak. It’s the nature of the course that makes him feel he has a farther climb than the seven shots that separate him from Woodland.
“A little frustrated at this place in general,” Spieth said. “This course would be phenomenal — and probably is phenomenal — if it’s not playing soft. You get away with more. You don’t have to be as precise. … Personally, I would prefer more difficult and firmer, faster conditions on the greens. Having said that, I would have shot a much higher score yesterday.”
Tiger Woods was among those playing in the afternoon, and Woods already had three birdies through five holes. Tony Finau, who opened with a 74, made seven birdies on the front nine but still was outside the cut line because of his triple bogey and bogey.
Midway through the afternoon round, the cut was projected to be even par. Woodland, even with the lowest 36-hole score in 60 years of stroke play at the PGA Championship, still had a long way to go. In conditions like Bellerive, no lead was safe.
“I feel safe because I feel safe where my game is,” Woodland said.
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