KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – In the 55 years since the PGA Championship switched to stroke play, there has never been a tougher round than Friday at Kiawah Island.
One score in the 60s, two in the 90s.
Of the 41 who failed to break 80, nine players could be found among the top 50 in the world ranking.
Through 11 hours of relentless wind, with gusts up to 30 mph that put whitecaps on the Atlantic Ocean, the one thing that looked vaguely familiar was Tiger Woods making one putt after another.
He shot a 1-under 71, one of four rounds under par on the Ocean Course, to share the lead with Vijay Singh and Carl Pettersson going into the weekend.
Just like that, the major known as “Glory’s Last Shot” turned into one last chance for Woods to finally win another major.
“I thought going out today, anything even par or better was going to be a good score,” Woods said. “So I went out today and I accomplished that. It was a tough, tough day. … I don’t think anyone had an advantage.”
Singh was the only player to break 70. His remarkable round of 69 included five birdies and gave the 49-year-old Fijian hope that he could put a major end to four years without winning.
Pettersson also made big putts, most of them for par and even one for bogey, until the mistakes caught up with him. He had a 74.
They were at 4-under 140, but Woods did his best to quell the anticipation by saying this major was a long way from over. Remember, he had a share of the lead at the U.S. Open this summer until he plunged to 21st with rounds of 75-73.
Twenty players were within five shots of the lead, starting with Ian Poulter one shot back, and including the likes of Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell and even John Daly.
Mickelson and Poulter also had 71. The four rounds under par were the fewest since there were only three sub-par rounds in the second round at Oak Hill in 1980.
There would have been five rounds except for a gutsy display of honesty by Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland.
About six hours after his round, he reported a violation on himself. Hoey had an embedded lie in a sandy area on the ninth hole, brushed sand away to identify his ball, and then forgot to re-create the original lie by replacing the sand. He notified a rules official of his oversight. Because it carries a two-shot penalty, Hoey, who signed for a 2-under 70, was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
For Woods, the PGA Championship is yet another chance to end four years without a major victory, and perhaps resume his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 professional majors. Woods won his 14th major in 2008 at the U.S. Open.
“I’ve been in this position many times over my career,” he said. “Again, we’re just at the halfway point. We have a long way to go.”
Poulter was tied for the lead until a bogey on his last hole, though he showed again that he can thrive in windy, demanding conditions. The last time he was in serious contention at wind-swept Royal Birkdale in 2008, when he was runner-up to Padraig Harrington.