fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Unknowns step up

&dateline;MEDINAH, Ill. &

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson got along so well, they'd like to spend more time together this weekend.

OK, so maybe that's a stretch. The pairing of the world's best players at the PGA Championship on Thursday wasn't exactly riveting stuff. But they're both in the hunt, and they'll gladly spend more quality time this weekend if it means they're in the final group Sunday.

"He's in his own world, and we take care of our game and our business," Mickelson said. "It's a fun day and we shake hands afterward. We both played OK today, but we both had a chance to go a little lower."

Instead, the two, who have combined to win five of the last seven majors, settled for matching 3-under 69s that left them three strokes behind some very unlikely leaders.

Lucas Glover let everyone know just how badly he wants a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, making three birdies in his last four holes for a 6-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Chris Riley.

Billy Andrade, who lucked into his spot as the seventh alternate, was one stroke back at 67. And that group between those three and Woods and Mickelson? It includes guys like Henrik Stenson, J.J. Henry and Stewart Cink &

names on the tip of every golf fan's tongue.

"When I wake up in the morning and see that I beat Tiger and Phil, it's got to put a smile on your face a little bit," Riley said. "But I know there's a lot of golf left, Just to be there, though, on the first day, I can't ask for much more."

Play began Friday morning under muggy, cloudy skies, and there was a chance of showers later in the day. Riley grabbed the lead all to himself with a birdie on his first hole, only to give the stroke right back on the next hole. But he made another birdie on the par-4 No. — and was at 7 under.

Glover had an afternoon tee time, as did Woods and Mickelson.

For as much as they're in the hunt, Woods and Mickelson rarely play together. They've been paired together a total of 15 times, with only four of those coming at a major. They hadn't strolled around a major together, in fact, since the final round of the 2001 Masters &

which, for those keeping score, Woods won.

And as everyone knows, the two aren't exactly best buds. If Brad and Angelina think they're under the microscope, they should listen to the questions these guys get.

But Woods and Mickelson understand how the game is played. There were no temper tantrums, no clubs thrown, no cross words spoken. Even the fans kept the trash talk to a minimum.

Woods opened with a sloppy bogey on the par-5 10th, cussing and flipping his club at the bag when he missed the green with his third shot. His chip shot ran 35 feet past the hole, and he left it 2 feet short.

But he recovered with a key 7-foot par save on the 13th. He also had an improbable birdie on the par-5 14th, hitting a blind 7-iron off a trampled lie in the rough and holing a 30-foot putt.

Mickelson birdied the first two holes, then hit a stretch where he missed seven of nine greens. He saved par on all of them except the par-3 second hole, pulling a 4-foot putt.

"We're here to post a number," Woods said. "We went out there and I think we did that today. We all hit the ball pretty good and ground our way around the golf course and just kept ourselves in the ballgame."

In other words, they were bland.

Just like Medinah.

Much was made early in the week of Medinah's 7,561-yard course, a supposed beast that is the longest in majors history. When it really mattered, though, it handed out birdies like pairing sheets with soft, calm conditions.

The 60 sub-par rounds Thursday broke by two the previous PGA Championship record for any round, set in 1995 in the second round at Riviera.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with it," Cink said. "If somebody shoots 20-under-par this week, then they are going to be the PGA champion, and they are going to have to go through a whole lot to win this tournament. It's a tough win no matter what."

With Woods-Mickelson a yawner and Medinah a nice walk, the focus quickly shifted to the Ryder Cup. The top 10 in the Ryder Cup rankings after this weekend automatically make the squad, along with two picks by captain Tom Lehman.

Five players have clinched spots, and Chris DiMarco is a virtual lock. That leaves four more spots &

and a whole lot of people who want them, starting with Glover and Davis Love III.

Glover is 14th in the standings, and needs to finish at least eighth to have a chance. Love, who began the year fourth in the standings, is 15th. He was the best player of the day, leading the tournament at 7-under, until a triple-bogey on the par-3 17th.

"We're all chasing the same goal," Glover said. "It's just like looking at the leaderboard on the 18th tee on Sunday if you're in the hunt. You're all vying for the same thing, you all want it, and that's the goal."