Kuchar early to rise

Leads despite short night

2nd round is suspended too

August 14, 2010|By Teddy Greenstein, Tribune newspapers

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Matt Kuchar reported feeling both hungry and sick after his alarm clock sounded at 4:30 a.m. Friday.

"I just don't feel good when I get five hours of sleep," he said.

But Kuchar insisted his mood was fine. The former college and amateur star might be the cheeriest man on the PGA Tour, with a smile frequency that rivals that of Phil Mickelson.

It was merely his body, he said, that needed time to "click" after the short turnaround following Thursday's play at the PGA Championship, which was halted by darkness.

Friday brought a morning fog delay of 2 hours, 40 minutes, and Kuchar used the time to refine his swing at the practice range. Then he attacked Whistling Straits, posting a 69 that gives him, for now, the 36-hole lead at 8 under par.

"This is certainly a great place to be," said Kuchar, who has eight top-10 finishes this season but no victories. "My goal is to put myself in contention Sunday."

Sunday still seems far away, given that 78 players had not completed their second rounds when play was suspended.

Tiger Woods played just six holes Friday and parred every one. But his last felt like a bogey after his 5-foot putt turned 360 degrees before deciding not to find the bottom of the cup.

As Woods left Whistling Straits, an enormous storm bearing down on eastern Wisconsin threatened to saturate the course.

The wind also picked up Friday, so much so that on the 215-yard seventh, Kuchar used an 8-iron.

"It was whipping, 20 to 25 miles an hour downwind," he said.

Kuchar has plenty of company near the top of the leaderboard. Long-hitting Californian Nick Watney is one back at 7 under, and seven players are at 5 under, including Bryce Molder, Kuchar's former teammate at Georgia Tech.

Watney was up at 4:15 for his expected 7 a.m. tee time but was not about to complain about the long day.

"It's just part of the deal," he said. "Everyone is putting up with it."

Molder got his espresso shot by stepping to the seventh tee, his first hole of the day.

"It's 220-something yards with a world of water to my right," he said of Lake Michigan. "I woke up pretty quick."

Phil Mickelson got a harsh wake-up call during his ninth hole of the second round, the beastly par-4 18th. Mickelson missed the fairway and topped his second shot, resulting in a double bogey.

But Mickelson still managed to shoot a 69, using six birdies to remain in contention, six shots back.

Kuchar, who tied for 24th at the Masters, was a two-time All-American at Georgia Tech and won the 1997 U.S. Amateur. He slumped early in his pro career but is among tour leaders this season in scoring average and leads in the all-around.

How to explain the turnaround?

"It's golf," he said. "Every one of you guys, if you play golf … one day you have it, one day you don't. We're not a whole lot different."

tgreenstein@tribune.com

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