Phil hacks out and his shot settles in the right rough 70 yards short. Early trouble. Meanwhile a massive crowd on No. 10 greets Tiger Rory and JT. Teeing off on No. 10 Mickelson blows his shot into the rough well left of the fairway on the par 4. And so it begins.
I guess the question of “Who is the favorite?” on a weekly basis will become only more meaningful in an era of broad betting interest in golf. It’s not like picking horses. Having said that Woods’s past success at Firestone is not any kind of predictor of whether he can win this week.
Bubba Watson. It’s been an incredible year for Bubba and it continues this week when he picks apart Bellerive with that pink driver. Sleeper: Hossler has been there all year. He’s shown the ability to play his way into contention at normal Tour stops. I think he avoids the weekend blow-up that has normally followed and bags himself his first top 10 in a major.
From the front bunker Rory hits a zipper that scares the flag but backs up to about 15 feet. He’ll have that for a par saver. Woods knocks his 3rd onto the front of the green but he’s going to have about 30-40 feet to save a par. Meanwhile up ahead Mickelson managed to save a par. No. 10 looks like it has some teeth: the hole has produced 14 bogeys and 10 pars so far.
Tiger Woods. Why not? He’s excelled at hot-weather PGA Championship venues with four victories. With the forecast for St. Louis as hot and muggy all week it favors Tiger. Tiger loves brawny 1960s-style courses with eight wins apiece at Firestone Torrey Pines and Bay Hill alone.
Sleeper: Kyle Stanley. I had Stanley locked in as a sleeper last week; his runner-up finish at Firestone makes him slightly less sleepy but I like the way his ballstriking sets up for Bellerive. Plus there’s the added potential bonus of Stanley completing the Former Nike Staffer Without a Club Deal Grand Slam.
Woods with a wedge in hand…and he stuffs it to about a foot! Kick-in birdie approaching. JT will have about 5 feet Rory 12. On 12 all 3 guys hit driver and all find the short grass. Woods needed a fairway there.
On the par-4 15th Rory swinging driver finds the right side of the fairway. That one was smoked. …and he come up short as well. He taps for par. Looks like pars all around here. Rory’s putt trundles down the slope but comes up about 5 feet short. JT leaves his birdie 3 feet short..and now Tiger…
Are they all pulling the same direction in the grow-the-game efforts? There’s a lot of good happening in that organization but with that membership number there’s plenty more to be done. They should be one of the most powerful and influential forces in the game. At this moment I’m not sure they are.
Tiger has showed this year that his best golf is good enough but he has been unable to string together four straight strong rounds. Is it mental fatigue? A back that is balkier than he will let on?
I’d say any European team that had Seve Faldo Langer Lyle and Woosnam would likely be better than whatever 12 players the Europeans assemble this year.
Justin Thomas meanwhile pars the 16th to remain -3 and tied atop the leaderboard with Stewart Cink. Greetings folks. Jess Marksbury with you for the next two hours. And I’m just in time for another Tiger bogey on the par-3 16th. Bummer. He falls to +3 for the day.