Daly among leaders at PGA Championship

Daly among leaders at PGA Championship

Daly among leaders at PGA Championship
August 9, 2007

Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- After all these years, John Daly still loves to grip it and rip it.

First at the slot machines.

Then at Southern Hills.

Neither figured to be the smart choice at the PGA Championship. Instead of practicing on a course he had not see in 13 years, Daly chose to gamble at Cherokee Casino. Then he really rolled the dice by hitting driver at every opportunity on a track that demands precision.

Against all odds, it worked.

Drenched in sweat and drowned by cheers, the two-time major champion walked off the 18th green Thursday with a 3-under 67 that left him two shots behind Graeme Storm, another unlikely star on a day rife with surprises.

Storm, who was washing trays at cake factory in England five years ago, was the only player who made it around Southern Hills without a bogey on his way to a 65 that left him looking down a leaderboard to find some of the usual suspects.

"The longer you stay ahead of Tiger Woods, the better," Storm said.

Woods, the defending PGA champion trying to make sure he doesn't end the year without a major, birdied three of his first six holes before he ran out of improbable par saves and settled for a 71.

Woods' name on any leaderboard can be intimidating. These days, Daly's name looks out of place.

Especially this week.

He didn't bother with a practice round the previous three days because of the oppressive heat, where temperatures climbed past 100 in the opening round and a cold front this week is anything in double digits. While some guys went through a liter of water every two holes, Daly loaded up on caffeine and cigarettes.

Not long after his best round at the PGA Championship in 10 years, it was all a blur.

"I can't remember, to tell you the truth," Daly said when asked about his four birdies. "Only had three heat strokes out there."

No one else could believe it.

"Must be from all of the practice rounds he played here," Woods said.

Daly had not played Southern Hills since he missed the cut at the '94 PGA Championship. Best he can recall, only one other time has he showed up at the first round of a major without a practice round. That would be the '91 PGA Championship, when he was the ninth alternate who drove through the night to Crooked Stick in Indiana.

And then he won.

Only a dozen players managed to break par on a course that provided ample opportunity for birdies, yet meted out its share of punishment with the slightest mistake.

Stephen Ames birdied his last three holes for a 68, putting him with Arron Oberholser and Woody Austin. The group at 69 included British Open champion Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, who made seven birdies.

So many others weren't so fortunate.

U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera was at even par until he hit two balls out-of-bounds, one in the water and took three putts from 30 feet for a 10 on the par-3 sixth hole, sending him to an 81, his worst score in a major championship.

Woods was in great shape at 3 under, saving one par from the trees on No. 16 and another by chipping in on the 17th. But from the middle of the fairway, his approach to No. 18 (his ninth hole) clipped a tree and dropped into the bunker. His next shot rolled down a slope some 50 feet away and he did well to make bogey.

Three more bogeys followed, although the world's No. 1 player didn't sound concerned.

"I felt like I hit the ball better than my score indicates, which is good," Woods said.

Phil Mickelson made his share of amazing birdies to go with a collection of blunders, such as his journey through the rough in trees for a bogey on the par-5 sixth, and dumping a flop shot into the bunker on No. 8.

"You're going to hit some bad shots and get bogeys here," he said after shooting a 73. "You're not going to be able to go all 18 holes and go unscathed."

Storm was the exception.

He had the only bogey-free round, which required no small measure of skill, along with some luck.

The 29-year-old player from England had little left in the tank when he arrived in Tulsa from the World Golf Championship at Firestone, where he finished 18 over par. This is his eighth week in a row, a stretch that began before he won the French Open for his first European Tour victory. Storm decided to forget about technique and enjoy the day, and it turned out to be a blast.

He started with consecutive birdies, nearly making an ace on the 11th. And when it looked as though he might get in trouble with a tee shot into the trees on the No. 2, he chipped in for birdie and raised his hands, wondering what was happening to him.

"It was one of those rounds when I never really thought about anything," Storm said.

This was no time to reflect on his past, either, the darkest days coming at the end of the 2002 season when he lost his card in Europe and was broke. He found work at a cream cake factory, washing trays in the back alley in weather so cold the pipes were frozen. It paid about $250 a week, a job he kept for two months.

"You have to bite the bullet and go back," he said. "I was just being a normal person doing an everyday job, eight hours a day. I didn't know where my career was going to go. I thought that might be the end, to be honest."

Daly's career looks like it might end any minute.

He lost his PGA Tour card last year and has been getting by on sponsor's exemption when he needs them. But that hasn't been his problem. Daly has finished only five of his 19 tournaments this year, and he hit a milestone this year by recording his 50th round in the 80s on the PGA Tour.

So how to explain ripping driver on a course that requires careful navigation? Signing for a 67 at a major where he had broken 70 once in the last 10 years?

"I have no idea," Daly said.

And then there's the heat, so severe that workers doused greens with a hose and Ames stood in front of a fan to cool his face.

"No wonder he didn't play any practice rounds," Ames said of Daly. "He would have died."

Daly found it a victory simply to finish, huffing and puffing up the hills, especially on the last hole.

"There was odds with all the caddies and players this week who would fall first, me or my caddie," he said. "So we made it. We made 18 holes. It was one of those rounds I was very aggressive off the tee. I didn't know what else to do."

The bigger question is where he goes from here.

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Re: Daly among leaders at PGA Championship

Verplank on top at Southern Hills
August 10th, 2007

Tulsa, OK (Sports Network) - Oklahoma State graduate Scott Verplank shot a four-under 66 on Friday to take the lead during the second round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.

Verplank, considered a favorite before the tournament due to his straight hitting, completed 36 holes at four-under-par 136.

He is one ahead of Stephen Ames, who posted a one-under 69 on Friday. Camilo Villegas and Arron Oberholser are also three-under par in the middle of their second rounds.

Tiger Woods birdied his first hole on Friday and is even-par for the championship. The defending champion is gunning for his first major title of the year. Since his breakthrough Masters win in 1997, Woods has only had three seasons without a major title.

Woody Austin managed an even-par 70 in round two and is in the clubhouse at two-under-par 138. Sergio Garcia and 2006 U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy are also at that number on the course.

John Daly, the 1991 PGA Champion, bogeyed his first two holes and dipped to minus-one for the tournament.

Phil Mickelson carded a one-under 69 on Friday to move to plus-two for the championship. The 2005 winner was not satisfied despite an under-par round at this demanding track.

"It just feels like I'm leaving four, five shots out there, is all," said Mickelson, who has missed the cut in his last two majors. "I feel like I'm playing a lot better than I'm scoring. That's what's been frustrating."

Mickelson played a practice round with Verplank this week and saw something in his Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teammate.

"He spent a lot of time in Oklahoma and Texas with this Bermuda rough," Mickelson said. "He's able to get up-and-down on the greens. If he hits a poor shot, he can salvage par. I think he'll be the guy to beat this week."

Verplank parred his first eight holes, then rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt at the ninth. He birdied the par-three 11th and added birdies at 15 and 17 to grab the lead.

At the 18th, Verplank had 20 feet for a birdie, but missed. Seeking his first major title, he still has the lead with half of the field in the clubhouse.

"Other than the heat, I feel pretty good," said Verplank. "It would be more than a dream come true (to win a major), particularly to have it here close to where I live. It would be probably unbelievable to me."

Ames was tied with Verplank at minus-four on the 18th hole, but hit a tree with his approach. He could not hole a long par putt, but did convert a five- footer for bogey to stay one behind.

John Senden carded an even-par 70 and is in the clubhouse at minus-one. Adam Scott (68) and Paul McGiney (66) finished 36 holes at even-par 140.

Overnight leader Graeme Storm struggled to a six-over 76 Friday and tumbled plus-one for the championship.

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Re: Daly among leaders at PGA Championship

Woods poised for another PGA title
August 11th, 2007

Tulsa, OK (Sports Network) - Tiger Woods is well on his way to victory at the PGA Championship.

The No. 1 player in the world and defending champion only managed a one-under 69 on Saturday, but will take a three-shot lead into the final round at Southern Hills.

Woods finished 54 holes at seven-under-par 203.

Stephen Ames birdied the last for a one-under 69, his third round in the 60s. He is alone in second place at minus-four.

Woody Austin bogeyed No. 18 to also shoot a 69. He is in third at three-under- par 207, one shot better that John Senden, who also posted a one-under score on Saturday.

Woods is in great shape to pick up his first major of the year and his 13th overall. In all 12 of Woods' previous major championships, he has held at least a piece of the 54-hole lead.

Woods has won three PGA titles, including last year's, and has four victories this season. Last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he cruised to an eight-shot victory and the momentum certainly seems to be there.

Woods started the final round with a two-shot lead over Scott Verplank.

Verplank cut Woods' lead to two with a birdie at four, but Woods answered with an eight-foot birdie putt of his own. Verplank made a mess of the par-five fifth and made bogey, then bogeyed the eighth when he missed an 18-foot par save.

Woods' lead was four, but Verplank converted a four-footer to birdie the ninth and get back within three. Woods kept the lead at that margin with a six-foot par putt at 10, but the advantage spread at the par-four 12th.

Verplank drove into the left rough and could only muscle his ball a few yards farther left. He had to try to pitch between trees and struck a branch. All totaled, Verplank made a double-bogey six and Woods sank a 10-footer for birdie.

The three-shot swing gave Woods a six-shot lead over Verplank, while Ames moved into second, five back. Ames had drained a long birdie putt at the same hole to move to minus-three.

Woods' six-iron tee ball at the 14th found a bunker on the left and he had a difficult shot out of the sand. He blasted 15 feet past and missed for his first bogey of the round.

Austin made it interesting a few groups ahead. He rolled in a seven-footer for birdie at 15 and a six-footer at the 16th and suddenly Woods' margin was only three.

Woods missed a couple of birdie tries at 15 and 16, but Austin drove into the right first cut at 18. His approach ran through the putting surface and his third ran eight feet past the flag stick. Austin's par save missed right and he tapped in for a bogey and a round of 69.

Woods was four ahead of Austin and Ames and holed a five-foot par putt at the 17th. Ames hit a spectacular second shot to the closing hole and converted the 12-foot birdie putt.

Now with a three-shot lead, Woods hammered his drive down the fairway at the closing hole, but gave himself a long birdie look. Woods nearly sank the putt, but settled for par and is three ahead in his quest for a fourth Wanamaker Trophy.

Sunday's final pairing is an intriguing one.

It was at the 2006 Accenture Match Play Championship where Ames said that he thought he had a chance against Woods because the No. 1 seed's driving was spotty.

Woods thrashed him 9 & 8 in the first round that day and when asked about what he felt about Ames' comments, Woods responded, "9 and 8."

Ames was testy about the subject Saturday.

"Are we at the PGA Championship or the Match Play?" asked Ames. "I don't know if I want to go there."

Ames is no slouch. He won the 2004 Western Open and last year's Players Championship. He played late in Sunday's final round at the U.S. Open before tying for 10th and is also trying to get Gary Player's attention for a spot on the International Presidents Cup team.

But he will have to topple the game's best front-runner.

"He's going to be tough to beat," acknowledged Ames.

Woods has only coughed up the 54-hole lead three times in his PGA Tour career, and never in a major.

Ernie Els is the only other player under par. He shot a 69 on Saturday and is in at minus-one.

Verplank came apart on the back nine en route to a four-over 74. He is tied for sixth place with Adam Scott (70), Arron Oberholser (70), K.J. Choi (68), Kevin Sutherland (68), Nathan Green (67) and Boo Weekley (65) at even-par 210.

Phil Mickelson struggled to a five-over 75 and is tied for 56th place at plus- seven.

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