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Wind whips the world’s best at PGA Championship while 50-year-old Phil Mickelson emerges from the pack

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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Technically speaking, Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen are the 36-hole co-leaders of the 103rd PGA, but the winner so far has been the wind at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort.

It huffed and puffed and blew World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, No. 2 Justin Thomas and No. 4 Xander Schauffele out of the tournament. Cameron Tringale played Nos. 16-18 in 10 over alone. Erik Van Rooyen lost his mind, smashing a tee marker when his tee shot at 17 trickled into the water. Golf course architect Pete Dye – #RIP – would have loved seeing the best in the world brought to their knees.

“It’s just so hard out there,” said Shane Lowry, who was happy to sign for 1 under and be at level par heading into the weekend. “Every hole is a disaster waiting to happen.”

Not for Koepka, the two-time PGA champ. Just as on Thursday, Koepka erased a sluggish start – bogeys at Nos. 4 and 6 – this time with an improbable eagle at the par-5 seventh. After tugging his tee shot into a clump of wire grass that announcer Brad Faxon compared to Don King’s hair, Koepka, who couldn’t even squat to look at the lie due to a bum right knee, whacked his second shot on the green and poured in a 41-foot putt.

“You’re not really expecting to make eagle out of a bush,” Koepka said in one of the understatements of the year.

Brooks Koepka plays his shot on the twelfth fairway during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament. (Photo: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports)

He made another eagle at 11, holing a 19-foot putt and pulled into the lead with a short birdie at 12. Bogeys at 15 and 17 left him signing for 71 and a 4-under 140 total and alone in third. The tougher, the better, and the more Koepka likes his chances to add to his major total.

“I love it when it’s difficult,” Koepka said. “I think that’s why I do so well in the majors. I just know mentally I can grind it out.”

And the capricious wind didn’t seem to bother Mickelson, who became the first 50-year-old to hold at least a share of the 36-hole lead at the PGA Championship since Sam Snead, then 54, held a one-stroke lead in 1966 over Don January and eventual winner Al Geiberger. The last 50-something to hold the lead after the second round at any major? Fred Couples at the 2012 Masters. Mickelson shot 31 on his inward nine on Friday to post 3-under 69.

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is making a valiant effort to win the second leg of the Grand Slam. He matched Oosthuizen with 68 and is tied with South Africans Christiaan Bezuidenhout (70) and Branden Grace (71) at 3-under 141.

“Just trying to stay alive out there, to be honest,” said Grace, who avoided calamity until depositing his tee shot at 17 into the water for a costly double bogey.

To hear Lowry tell it, the challenge begins at the practice tee when it comes to The Ocean Course.

“You’re standing there, and you’re hitting your driver, and your numbers are on the (TrackMan) screen and the driver has gone 240, you’re like, it’s going to be a long day today,” he said.

England’s Ian Poulter had one of the best rounds going – 6 under through 12 holes – what he described as putting something in the bank before The Ocean Course’s back-breaking finish.

“I got on to 13 and there was a scoreboard in the distance, and it was ironic, it says, Ian Poulter, 6-under through 12 and chasing down a course record, and I just started laughing to myself, like who in the world would write that and put that on a board with that last five holes to play?” Poulter said. “Yeah, if anyone does shoot 6-under par, then major respect. It’s incredible.”

PGA: PGA Championship - Second Round

Ian Poulter lines his putt on the fifteenth green during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament. (Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, came close, tying for the best round of the day, making five birdies and just one bogey at the last for 68, and calling it one of his best rounds in a major.

That was 11 strokes better, he was reminded, than his score in the second round of the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

“Thank you,” he said. “It’s a good thing I forgot about it.”

But as “diabolical” as The Ocean Course played for the first 36 holes, Poulter and Lowry articulated the general sentiment.

“We want a good test, right? We always want to test ourselves to the highest level,” he said. “It tests a different part of the brain that gets switched on, which I don’t get to use that often.”

Said Lowry: “You know, it’s a long day out there. It’s tough. It’s not very enjoyable when you’re doing it, but the satisfaction of holing those par putts, finishing on a good score is the buzz I get out of it.”

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/21/pga-championship-phil-mickelson-brooks-koepka-kiawah-island/

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