Game on: Woods 1 off

Four share lead at 8-under on wet day at Medinah

PGA Championship

August 19, 2006|By THOMAS BONK | THOMAS BONK,LOS ANGELES TIMES

MEDINAH, Ill. -- In the cold rain, in the growing darkness, on a wet and bumpy 18th green, that's far from the normal comfort zone for Tiger Woods. But that's precisely where Woods introduced himself to the 88th PGA Championship yesterday, the moment a slippery, 18-foot right-to-left breaking putt disappeared into the hole for a birdie that defined his day.

Moments later, while Woods did a television interview, a grinning Phil Mickelson walked over and held an umbrella over the head of Woods, who smiled, too.

As far as defining moments go, this one wasn't so bad, either.

It was a good day to take cover, because at the forest-like setting at Medinah Country Club, Woods is squarely in the hunt for another major, which would be his second in two months and the 12th of his career.

Woods is not there yet, but the 4-under-par 68 that Woods carved out in yesterday's second round vaulted him to within one shot of the lead.

It's crowded at the top - 8-under par - with Henrik Stenson, Billy Andrade, Luke Donald and Tim Herron, each an accomplished veteran, but a group that is collectively 11 majors short of Woods.

So far, it's an all-out blitz at the final major of the year, at storied Medinah, which is getting pulverized. There were 61 players who shot under par yesterday and 26 of them produced scores in the 60s.

Stenson and Donald turned in 68s and Andrade a 69 for 36-hole totals of 8-under 136. Woods is next at 7-under, the same score as Geoff Ogilvy and Davis Love III.

But it is Woods who draws the most attention.

"I can promise you no one is scared that I'm on the leader board, I don't think," Ogilvy said.

There are 24 players within four shots of the lead, but no one is getting more scrutiny than Woods.

"I'm in good shape," Woods said. "There's a bunched leader board. You knew it was going to be that way with the soft greens and that's basically what it turned out to be.

"You've got to go out there and make some birdies here and there and try not to give anything back."

Woods has one bogey so far and it was on his first hole Thursday, after he drove into the rough.

Mickelson was not as consistent yesterday, with four bogeys and five birdies. He birdied the last hole to end his round of 1-under 71, three shots behind Woods and four off the lead.

His problem: He has played the par-3 holes in a combined 4-over.

"I'm obviously not striking the ball very well [but] I'm only four back with two rounds to go," Mickelson said.

Herron, 36, said he knows who is in contention without looking at the scoreboard.

"It's always interesting to see where Tiger is," he said. "He's kind of always there, you know."

Somewhat surprisingly, Stenson is also there. He played the four par-5 holes in even par, but was 3-under on the par-3s, so he said it all worked out. And maybe the best news, almost as good as being tied for the lead, of course, is that he got it all done before it started drizzling in the afternoon.

Andrade was not so fortunate. Or maybe he was, if you consider the way he finished, knocking in a 20-foot putt for a birdie on the drippy 18th green.

Andrade, 42, was the seventh alternate into the tournament but hasn't played like it. The 42-year-old has had only one top 10 in 16 previous PGA Championships and hasn't won a PGA Tour event in six years.

Woods ended his two-round sojourn with Mickelson and Ogilvy as his playing partners and gets Chris Riley today for the third round. Riley followed his opening round of 66 with a 72 yesterday.

As for his own game, Woods said he's hoping for the best.

"If you get a little hot, then you could shoot 65 or 64."

Thomas Bonk writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Scores, 4C

Leader board

THE LEADERS ...

Henrik Stenson 68-68--136 Billy Andrade 67-69--136 Luke Donald 68-68--136 Tim Herron 69-67--136

... AND SELECTED FOLLOWERS

Davis Love III 68-69--137 Geoff Ogilvy 69-68--137 Tiger Woods 69-68--137 Fred Funk 69-69--138 Sergio Garcia 69-70--139 Phil Mickelson 69-71--140 Complete scores, 4C

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