Commentary

PGA leaderboard crammed with winners

Updated: August 13, 2011, 2:04 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- Perhaps the somewhat lackluster feel to the 93rd PGA Championship has something to do with the energy-sapping heat and humidity that all but suffocated any excitement out of Friday's second round at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Spectators were dropping faster and more furious than birdie putts amid the sun-soaked surroundings where a couple of guys named Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner managed to wipe away the sweat just enough to tie for the lead.

[+] EnlargeKeegan Bradley
Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesFor Keegan Bradley, the 93rd PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club is his first major. After 36 holes, he shares the lead with Jason Dufner.

Whether they can withstand the heat of major championship pressure will be determined over the next two days, but at least they've got company.

Only three players among the top 25 have won a major title, and Jim Furyk, Davis Love and Trevor Immelman have just one apiece.

And it's not like those guys have been scaring anybody lately, either.

Furyk, the reigning FedEx Cup champion on the PGA Tour -- he pocketed a $10 million bonus -- has missed seven cuts this year. Love is the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, and his lone major at the PGA came 14 years ago. And then there's Immelman, who suffered a wrist injury and has no top-10s since his Masters win in 2008.

And yet, while there are seemingly few big "names" atop the leaderboard, 11 players in the top 25 have won a tournament this year. And there are 25 players within five strokes of the lead.

"There's a lot of good guys out there," said Dufner, 34, who shot a 5-under-par 65 to get to 135, 5 under for the tournament. "That's one thing I've learned, this is my sixth year out here, there's tons and tons of guys who can play golf. The networks and the media maybe focus on bigger names for a reason. That's who people want to see.

"People want to see Tiger Woods. People want to see Phil Mickelson. But there's other guys who can really, really play golf out here and that are really good that you've never heard of."

Those heated fans won't be seeing Woods. He missed the cut for just the third time as a pro in a major. They'd have seen Mickelson closer to the lead had he not rinsed his second shot at the treacherous par-4 18th hole. Still, "Lefty" finds himself tied for 26th, just six shots back and part of a tight leaderboard.

Defending champion Martin Kaymer won't be here for the weekend, nor will British Open champ Darren Clarke. U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, dealing with a sore wrist due to an injury suffered in Thursday's first round, is eight strokes off the lead after shooting 73.

Bradley shot the day's best score, a 64 that tied him with Dufner. Bradley is playing in his first major championship and won earlier this year at the Byron Nelson Championship.

Other winners from 2011 near the lead are Brendan Steele, first-round leader Steve Stricker -- who followed a 63 with a 74 -- Jhonattan Vegas, Adam Scott and Scott Piercy.

"They are very good players," Mickelson said. "And they are very talented. They have been in contention a number of times, but that's not a surprise to me. I've seen how good they are."

One surprise is Furyk. The reigning FedEx Cup champion and winner of the 2003 U.S. Open is having a miserable year, with just two top-10s and his best finish a tie for ninth. But he shot 65 to get into contention and is just one back.

Furyk, certainly, has dealt with plenty of pressure in his career, having won 16 times while being an annual member of U.S. Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams.

"I knocked some putts in," Furyk said. "When I made a mistake, when I missed a fairway, when I missed a green, when I had that 10-footer for par, I was able to knock it in and I capitalized on more birdie putts today."

Lurking just three shots off the lead is Adam Scott, who won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday. England's Lee Westwood, who is ranked No. 2 in the world, is also in position to make a move, four strokes back.

And then there is Bradley, 25, who played college golf at St. John's of all places and who just seems thrilled to be here.

"I think it's about getting comfortable out here," Bradley said. "I feel great. I know it's a Friday and not a Sunday, but I feel great and as long as I'm having fun, it seems like I shoot good numbers."

The heat didn't seem to bother Bradley at all, which is usually the case when the ball is going where you want.

But now comes a different kind of heat as the final 36 holes of the PGA Championship commence. And it's every bit as uncomfortable as the warm Georgia air.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com