There was good news and bad news for the Australian contingent on the second day of the 99th USPGA Championship at Quail Hollow.
While 2015 champion Jason Day made great strides through the field – he finished on six-under par just as play was called for darkness – others struggled in the heavy conditions made worse by a 103-minute lightning delay that brought with it a torrential downpour.
Leading the way, however, were American Kevin Kisner (67-67) and World No.3 Hideki Matsuyama (70-64). Both are eight-under par through two rounds, with Matsuyama’s breath-taking 64 the low round of the championship so far (tied with Francesco Molinari of Italy). Last week’s winner at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational made five birdies in his last seven holes to tie the long-time leader.
RIGHT: Jason Day thanks the gallery after making his birdie at the 14th hole. PHOTO: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images.
In contrast, 2017 hasn’t been the best year of Adam Scott’s professional life and the – hopefully brief – descent into mediocrity continued at Quail Hollow. As Kisner, Matsuyama and others disappeared into the middle distance, Scott could do no better than add a five-over par 76 to his opening 71.
Indeed, it was sloppy stuff from the former Masters champion. Five bogeys and a double-bogey littered Scott’s scorecard, errors off-set only marginally by a brace of birdies. On 147, he faced the prospect of a long wait to see if he would make the halfway cut. And it could go either way. When play was halted at 8.11pm local time, there were 69 players on +4 or better. The top-70 and ties qualify to play over the weekend.
“I would be surprised if the cut doesn’t go to (plus) five,” insisted Scott. “It seemed to play slightly easier this morning so I’m pretty confident it will go to five. I think I will make the cut.
“I am actually playing alright, but my scrambling was woeful out there. Some of my shots were not far away from the pin but here you can be 20-feet away and have an awful lie. With the greens so fast, the ball is very hard to control. Getting it near the hole is not easy and then then you are left with tough putts. I guess you could say I missed in a few of the wrong spots but there didn’t look like many other places to hit it, either.”
Still, a silly game involving batting a ball around a field with a stick is hardly Scott’s top priority right now. His wife is currently at home in Australia preparing for the birth of the couple’s second child.
“My priorities were a little shifted this year,” he admitted. “And my preparation changed accordingly. Next year I’ll be back to the normal routine. Hopefully I get a little more out of my golf through that. I just can’t quite put it all together right now and that’s down to lack of practice.
“Besides, motivations change over the course of a 20-year career. Not every time you come into a year are you going to absolutely commit to putting everything into it. This is going to be one of those years. Although I feel like I’ve managed it all fairly well, it just shows you how good everyone else is, you really need to put a lot into it to get the results.”
Speaking of which, the scores posted by the other Aussies in the field were a mixed bag.
Day was one over for his round when he reached the short par-5 7th. An eagle there kick-started his round and he pencilled in three more over the next trio of holes. The weather delay came shortly after and it conspired to bring his birdie run to a halt and he bogied the 11th hole when play resumed.
But he got his round back on track when he rolled in a 45-foot birdie at the par-3 13th. At the short par-4 14th, the Queenslander reached five under for his round when he was able to get up-and-down for his birdie three from just short of the putting surface .
Scott and Marc Leishman (71 for 146) had completed their second rounds before the storm hit and Pampling – by carelessly driving from the 9th tee (the ball reached a height of 13 feet before diving into the trees on the left) in an effort to beat the clock – did the same. A solid finish in the morning could see Scott Hend (plus-six with four holes to play) playing on the weekend. But Cameron Smith (plus-13 with three holes left) will definitely miss out.