- After rain caused play to be suspended, Bellerive will likely continue to play easy Saturday when the second round of the PGA Championship resumes.
ST. LOUIS — After waiting all morning for his chance to take reclaim the lead Gary Woodland took from him yesterday at the PGA Championship, Rickie Fowler made it as far as the 10th green—where he holed his third birdie of the day—before play was suspended Friday afternoon. After nearly two hours of rain, the tournament was called off for the remainder of the day at 5:30 p.m.
On a course already playing wet, slow—in non-golf parlance: easy—the rains won’t do anything to drive up scores when play resumes Saturday at 7 a.m.—although St. Louis is forecast to have a largely dry night. The tournament’s third round will begin a half-hour after the conclusion of the delayed second round, and players will play in trios and tee off from both the 1st hole and the 10th hole. Among those left on the course Friday were Fowler (who finished 10 holes), Phil Mickelson (8), Jason Day (8), Tiger Woods (7), Justin Thomas (7) and Rory McIlroy (7).
In the nearly nine hours of golf that unfolded before the delay, Bellerive produced two scores of 63, which tied the record for the lowest single-round score in PGA Championship history. In fact, it was the first time since the first round of the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltustrol that two golfers finished with scores as low as 63 on the same day. The first belonged to reigning U.S. Open Champion Brooks Koepka, the second to Charl Schwartzel. Koepka finished at eight under par for the day, Schwartzel at seven under—but neither could claim the most impressive nine holes of the day, a distinction that goes to Kevin Kisner. The 34-year-old American, who tied for second at the British Open last month, finished with a 64 on Friday after bogeying his final hole, but he was six under par before he made the turn, logging birdies on holes No. 10, 11, 13, 15, 17 and 18.
In hot, sunny and relatively wind-free conditions, only 30 of the 78 players who finished their second round Friday scored over par. Throughout the morning rounds, it was easy to play just fine and get lost in the scoreboard morass of just-under-par, but to write the day off as a dull but easy round would be to overlook the likes of Koepka, Schwartzel, Kisner and even Tony Finau, who finished 11 holes and had one of the strangest-ever scorecards through nine: After logging birdies on Bellerive’s first five holes, he triple-bogeyed hole No. 6 after sailing his drive into a water hazard. He somehow rebounded with another two birdies before bogeying No. 9 in a rollercoaster of a round; for holes at a time, he looked to be playing himself into contention, until in an instant he was back clinging to the cut line. (Finau was at even par when play was suspended.)
After his record-tying round, Koepka had no idea until he stepped off his final green that he’d flirted with history. A birdie on No. 9, his final hole would have netted him a 62 and set a new mark—and Koepka said later that he thought he had the putt. It veered left of the hole, though, and he tapped in a three-footer for par. Only then did he know he’d tied history with his 63.
“Records are made to be broken, I guess,” Koepka said after his round, which put him at eight under par on the tournament and in third place outright as the afternoon round of golfers began to tee off. “I've been so in the zone,” he added, “you don't know where you are or where you're at.”
Schwartzel, who won the Masters in 2011, has never finished better than 12th at the PGA Championship, but his round Friday ushered him into contention in a field led by Woodland, who shot 66 Friday and 64 Thursday. “I think this morning was very scorable,” Schwartzel said after his round. “I drove it decently well for me and… my iron play has been really good. So I gave myself just a lot of chances. I felt like I was putting for birdie on pretty much every hole.”
Schwartzel’s assessment was a common one Friday, which was reflected in the scores. At the time play was suspended, Woods had three birdies through seven holes, and he left another potential birdie putt on the green. In a field with a cut line that’s shaping up to be barely over par, Woods needed a strong round Friday, and he has all the makings to finish one Saturday morning, when conditions may be just as conducive to low scores.
“The start of the week I felt like this was a 20-under-par golf course,” Justin Rose, who’s at four under through two rounds, said Friday. “It looks like we're kind of edging in that direction. Some rain this afternoon, yeah, you need this course to firm up pretty quickly for scoring to dramatically change.”