Thursday, August 9, 2012
Will scores run red at Kiawah Island?
After 18 holes at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, one thing we know for sure is that when the wind doesn't blow, birdies can be made in bunches at the PGA Championship.
So will red numbers continue to be had, or will the course's defenses make a stand?
Our experts analyze all that and more in our latest edition of PGA Championship Four-Ball.
1. Round 1 leader Carl Pettersson is 6 under. Will the winning score be better or worse than his current under-par total?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: I said in the past that the winning score this week would be 8 under, and I'm going to stick with that. Judging by the forecast, expect scores to roller coaster Friday and Saturday.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: It all depends on Mother Nature and the circumstances Sunday evening. The Ocean Course is vulnerable without wind. At the beginning of the Open Championship, a lot of us predicted a double-digit winning total after Adam Scott's first-round 6-under-par 64. By Sunday afternoon, when the wind and the pressure of a major championship set in for the leaders, Royal Lytham & St. Annes fought back, and Ernie Els' winning score was just 7 under par. I think we might see a similar outcome on Kiawah Island.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Better, but not by much. The conditions are going to get progressively more difficult, whether it be rain or wind. But the softness of the course allows for birdies. Somebody is going to get to 8 or 10 under par.
Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com senior national columnist: All depends on the weather. It was Philippines-hot and humid Thursday, but the winds weren't brutal. If the winds and rain kick up, so will the scores.
2. What surprised you most about Tiger Woods' opening round?
Michael Collins: That he could shoot 3 under by hitting only 10 of 18 greens. Granted, a few missed greens were fringes, so that also helped the putting stats, but if he misses eight Friday, he's going to shoot much worse.
Farrell Evans: I was surprised that Tiger birdied only one of the four par-5s on Thursday but still was able to post six birdies in his 3-under-par 69. A 66 was easily within his reach.
Bob Harig: His struggles with the 3-wood. Three times, Woods pull-hooked that club off the tee and into the rough. He hit just 10 greens in regulation, a number well below his average of late. A good putting round helped salvage his score.
Gene Wojciechowski: Not much. He avoided big numbers when he made mistakes, made some important putts and put himself in contention. That's a win-win-win in the first round of a major.
Michael Collins: Simpson's 79. Daly had been playing well coming into the week, and it's a course that fits him. But I saw Simpson on Wednesday, and he looked good and seemed rested, so a 79 from the U.S. Open champion really caught me by surprise.
Farrell Evans: Simpson's 79 was more surprising because Big John is coming off a T-5 at Reno, his best finish in a PGA Tour event since 2005. Webb is the U.S. Open champion and has five other top-10s on the year.
Bob Harig: Simpson. Although he's taken time off due to the birth of a child, Simpson said he's been playing at home and working on his game. Daly's 68 is not as much of a surprise, as he's been playing decently of late, coming off a top-five finish in Reno -- his first on the PGA Tour in seven years.
Gene Wojciechowski: Daly's 68. Any time Daly is on a leaderboard -- especially at a major -- it's a bit of a stunner. Although he did say he came into the PGA Championship playing fairly well.
4. Phil Mickelson's mind-boggling form continued in Round 1. Can he still contend given his roller coaster ride?
Michael Collins: Mickelson has no chance of contending. That 73 should have been an 80, and I am expecting no better than a 75 in Round 2. I see Mickelson watching preseason football this weekend, not playing to win the Wanamaker Trophy.
Farrell Evans: Mickelson hasn't been right for months. There is something happening with him that goes beyond golf. "Lefty" always had bouts of sporadic play, but he just doesn't look comfortable on the golf course. So I'm very skeptical of his chances of contending on the weekend.
Bob Harig: It's hard to envision him contending. Phil is maddeningly inconsistent, but of late he's been consistently poor. He's already 7 strokes back with a lot of players between him and the lead.
Gene Wojciechowski: I always root for the story -- and Phil making a run at this major would definitely be a story. But every time I looked up, Phil was scrambling. Tough to win a major that way.