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Woodland leads PGA with record low halfway score
By Andrew Both
ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Gary Woodland posted a record low halfway score at a PGA Championship, Brooks Koepka and Charl Schwartzel matched the lowest round in tournament history and half the field failed to complete the weather-delayed second round on Friday.
A day that began under a cloudless sky ended prematurely when a thunderstorm ended play at 3.35 p.m. local time (2035 GMT) at Bellerive.
Tiger Woods, three-under par after seven holes, was among half the field scheduled to finish the second round at 7 a.m. on Saturday.
Woodland aside, the stellar leaderboard included a long list of major champions, as well as a couple of emerging talents who could soon join the ranks.
World number 44 Woodland followed up his opening six-under 64 with an almost as impressive 66 to set the pace at 10-under 130, one stroke ahead of fellow American Kevin Kisner.
U.S. Open champion Koepka jumped within two strokes after a seven-birdie 63, while Schwartzel moments later became the 16th player to shoot the score at the season’s fourth major.
He joined world number one Dustin Johnson (66) and Belgian Thomas Pieters (66) three off the pace.
American Rickie Fowler was also three back after 10 holes, best of those unable to finish.
Woodland, a long and straight hitter whose short game is not always a thing of beauty, was satisfied with his day’s work.
“Probably didn’t play as well as I did yesterday top to bottom, but the iron game really kept me in it today,” he said.
Close behind was Kisner, at 34 emerging as a player of the highest order in the majors. He led into the final round at last year’s PGA Championship and also at last month’s British Open.
“I’ve made a bunch of cuts and competed in majors, I just haven’t, until recently, had a chance to win and that’s been our goal going forward and I like my position going to the weekend,” Kisner said after bogeying the last for 64.
But Koepka is perhaps the man to beat after bringing the course to its knees with a mix of brute power and inch-perfect precision.
“Today I drove it beautifully, my wedges distance control is very spot on, and making the putts, those five, six-footers that you need to make,” said the winner of the past two U.S. Opens.
Schwartzel notched even more birdies than Koepka, eight in all, offset by a lone bogey.
The 2011 Masters champion has been in hibernation for much of the past seven years since collecting a green jacket, but quality never goes out of style.
He switched to a heavier putter after being unhappy with his form on the greens on Thursday and the move paid immediate dividends.
“I felt like I was putting for birdie on pretty much every hole,” said the 33-year-old, who hopes to make it three victories by South African-born players in three majors at Bellerive.
Gary Player won the 1965 U.S. Open here before Nick Price collected the 1992 PGA Championship.
Woods, meanwhile, will be licking his lips at the prospect of a birdie blitz on Saturday morning on a course which should be soft as a marshmallow.
He racked up three birdies in seven holes on Friday, outplaying defending champion Justin Thomas and four-times major champion Rory McIlroy.
Thomas picked up one shot to go two-under while McIlroy remained as he started the day at even.
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)
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