Recap of the day
After Thursday’s opening round at Quail Hollow in North Carolina, Tiger Woods said this. “The way this golf course is set up and the way it's playing right now, the guys are going to be stacked. We're all going to be close. There's going to be probably, I'm guessing, 15 guys or so with a chance on Sunday.” Woods doesn’t look to be wrong.
Friday ended with Peter Malnati (68) holding a one-shot lead over Aaron Wise (68) and Jason Day (67). Paul Casey (68) and Charl Schwartzel (67) – both recent winners of the Valspar Championship at Copperhead, the Florida course that is more reminiscent of a tree-lined track in the Carolinas – were a further shot back while just five strokes covered the top 20.
Wise, who started at 10, held a three-shot lead at one point but shot 1-over on his second nine.
Leaderboard: -7 Peter Malnati, -6 Aaron Wise, Jason Day, -5 Paul Casey, Charl Schwartzel, -4 Johnson Wagner, -3 Sam Saunders, Kyle Stanley, Nick Watney, Charles Howell III, Emiliano Grillo, Sam Burns.
Low round of the day: 65 Bryson De Chambeau. It lifted him 101 spots to T13.
Cut: +3 with a 54-hole cut of top 70s and ties set to come after Saturday since 87 golfers made it through the cut line.
Saturday weather forecast
It’s pretty much the pattern of the first two days. The sunshine comes out and stays out, with temperatures rising from the early 70s at 9am to the mid 80s at 4pm. Winds are light.
Cumulative Stats of Top 5 after R2
Peter Malnati 135 - DD: 295.0, DA: 53.57%, GIR: 66.67%, Scrambling: 66.67%, SG: Putting: 5.619
Aaron Wise 136 - DD: 313.6, DA: 50.00%, GIR: 66.67%, Scrambling: 66.67%, SG: Putting: 3.220
Jason Day 136 - DD: 325.2, DA: 53.57%, GIR: 61.11%, Scrambling: 85.71%, SG: Putting: 3.357
Paul Casey 137 - DD: 321.7, DA: 71.43%, GIR: 61.11%, Scrambling: 71.43%, SG: Putting: 3.140
Charl Schwartzel 137 - DD: 311.4, DA: 57.14%, GIR: 69.44%, Scrambling: 54.55%, SG: Putting: 4.627
Notes: Malnati ranks 1st for SG: Putting at the midpoint.
Fate of the favorites
Rory McIlroy 144 – An ugly 76 today dropped the pre-tournament favorite 41 spots and nine off the lead. Came home in 40. Not a great way to celebrate his 29th birthday
Justin Thomas 142 – His morning 69 propelled Thomas up 51 spots to T28. And he did it despite registering a minus SGP figure
Rickie Fowler 141 – Up to T20 after a 69. Made just a single bogey and third for the week so far in both DA and Scrambling. Six back but looking poised to surge
Jason Day 136 – Jump of 15 spots to T2. Second in Scrambling. Holing a 97ft bunker shot for eagle helped. He’s 8-for-8 from sand so far
Hideki Matsuyama 145 – Needed something in the 60s to make the cut after his opening 77 and, despite having a ‘7’ on his card, scraped in on the number thanks to a 68
Revised outright betting: 5/2 Jason Day, 9/2 Paul Casey, 12/1 Charl Schwartzel, 14/1 Aaron Wise, Peter Malnati, 22/1 Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, 25/1 Emiliano Grillo. Also: 50/1 Rory McIlroy, 175/1 Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods (73, 144 - T48): After taking 64 putts through his first 32 holes: "I need to trust what I keep telling myself, but my feels are telling me one thing. I need to fix it and try to get a little more hit in my stroke. I've always putted faster greens well, and slower greens I've always kind of struggled. I've had ample time to make the adjustment, I just haven't. I'm struggling with putting that much hit in my stroke to hit it that much harder. I've just got to be able to do it. I've hit it good enough to be right up next to that lead. If I just putt normal, I'm right there.”
Patrick Reed (71, 142 - T28): “The greens are firm but slow. It’s an interesting combination. We don’t see that very often. You’re landing shots where you figure you’re supposed to land them and they bounce pretty hard forward but then they’ll grab for you. I go through hot-streaks these past two days where I’ve hit some good tee-shots but then I’ll go through five, six holes where I don’t hit a single fairway. It’s close. I just have to get the driver back under control. Even though I’m missing fairways, I’m missing them in the right spots so I’m able to get the ball on the green.”
Road to victory at Quail Hollow
Note that 2017 is from the PGA Championship rather than the 2017 edition of this event at Eagle Point:
2017 Justin Thomas - R1: 44th, R2: 7th, R3: 4th
2016 James Hahn - R1: 17th, R2: 13th, R3: 3rd
2015 Rory McIlroy - R1 30th, R2: 5th, R3: 1st
2014 J.B. Holmes - R1: 16th, R2: 4th, R3: 1st
2013 Derek Ernst - R1: 1st, R2: 5th, R3: 4th
Notes: While there was some leeway in first-round scores, four of the past five course winners were in the top seven after 36 holes while the other was T13. Hahn was five back at halfway when winning in 2016.
Focus on – Rory McIlroy
An opening 69 suggested Rory had thrown off his Sunday disappointment at the Masters but today’s 5-over 76 was his joint-highest round in 32 laps of Quail Hollow. It puts him nine off the lead. Hmmm. Sound familiar? Yep, McIlroy was nine back at the midpoint when he made this course the scene of his first PGA Tour win in 2010. He shot 66-62 on the weekend that year to win by four. Rory was also six back at halfway when runner-up in 2012 and three off the pace after 36 before claiming his second victory at Quail Hollow in 2015. He paved the way for that with a stunning 61 on Moving Day. Another good omen? The last time he shot 76 here (R2 2014), he followed it with a 65 on Saturday.
Where has Rory won from?
2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational – six back after R2
2016 Tour Championship – five back after R2
2016 Deutsche Bank Championship – seven back after R2
Notes: Can he come from off the pace? His last three wins on American soil says he absolutely can.
A different course?
A theme so far this week is the number of players saying how differently the course is playing to what it did at last August’s PGA Championship. So, how about a comparison?
Here’s the top 10 in the 2017 PGA and how they’re performing so far:
-8 Justin Thomas – T28 (Evs)
-6 Francesco Molinari – T28 (Evs)
-6 Louis Oosthuizen - MC (+4)
-6 Patrick Reed – T28 (Evs)
-5 Rickie Fowler – T20 (-1)
-5 Hideki Matsuyama – T70 (+3)
-4 Graham DeLaet (Not playing)
-4 Kevin Kisner - MC (+5)
-1 Jason Day – T2 (-6)
-1 Chris Stroud – T70 (+3)
Notes: Only Day is better than T20 so far. It appears that 2017 PGA form hasn't been a great help.
To flip it, here’s how the current top 10 on the 36-hole leaderboard fared in the 2017 PGA:
-7 Peter Malnati – DNP
-6 Aaron Wise – DNP
-6 Jason Day – T9
-5 Paul Casey – T13
-5 Charl Schwartzel – T48
-4 Johnson Wagner – DNP
-4 Sam Saunders – DNP
-4 Kyle Stanley – MC
-4 Nick Watney – DNP
-4 Charles Howell III – T73
-4 Emiliano Grillo – MC
-4 Sam Burns – DNP
Notes: It’s virtually a different set of actors. Six of the top 12 so far didn’t play last summer while two others missed the cut. Only Day and Casey are providing any sort of link but, then again, both are in the top 15 in the world rankings so would expect to play well anywhere.