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PGA Championship

Tournament Preview

It's been five years since Tiger Woods' last Major championship; a year that also provided the most recent winner of two Majors in one year, and the most recent man to win two back-to-back - both those highlights provided by Ireland's Padraig Harrington.

The much-hyped Woods, ranked No. 1 in the world and coming off a dominant victory at the WGC-Bridgestone will of course be trying to break his personal losing streak of 17 Majors without a victory.

Chief rival Phil Mickelson will be attempting to become the first man since Harrington, and just the fifth man ever to win the British Open and the PGA Championship in the same season. Woods achieved the feat in both 2006 and 2000; before that, only Nick Price (1994) and Walter Hagen (1924) had ever accomplished the rare double down.

Then, there are Adam Scott and Justin Rose, the Masters and US Open champions, trying to make some unique history of their own.

Just three times in the entire history of the Majors - dating back to 1895 when the first US Open was held to give men's golf two big events (the other being the British Open) - has a man won his first Major title and come back to win his second in the same year.

The historic trio? Gene Sarazen, who won seven Majors, including the 1922 US Open and PGA Championship; Craig Wood, whose crowns at the 1941 Masters and US Open were the only two Majors of his career, and who was the last pre-World War II US Open winner as the event was not held from 1942-1945.

And then there's Jack Burke Jr., who also claimed two Majors in his career, bookending the 1956 season with victories at the Masters and the PGA Championship - the last man to win his first two Majors in the same year - 57 years ago. To make it even more of an unbelievable tale - consider that Burke, still active in the golf community at age 90 - gave putting lessons to Mickelson in recent years.

Of all the players in the field this year at the East Course of Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, it is unlikely that any of them are more hopeful of history repeating itself than 2012 defending champion Rory McIlroy.

A year ago in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, it was McIlroy, thanks in large part to a bogey free 6-under 66 on the final round dominating the field for an eight-stroke win. It was a PGA Championship record for margin of victory and made McIlroy the sixth-youngest man to have won two Majors - at the age of 23 years, three months.

McIlroy has aged just one year physically since then, but one can only speculate on his mental fatigue and weariness over the past 12 months.

08/07/13, Thursday

Australia's Adam Scott has already made history once this year, becoming the first Australian man to win the Masters. On Thursday, he kicked off pursuit of more golf history, firing a 5-under 65 to sit tied atop the leaderboard after one round at the PGA Championship in Rochester, New York.

Teeing off in the afternoon session, Scott sent a message across the gallery that he would be a force to be reckoned with as he fired five straight birdies between No 4 and No. 8. He was even on the back nine, but ensured a tie with Furyk by knocking down a 15-foot par putt on No. 18.

If he were to emerge victorious this weekend, Scott would be the first man in 57 years to win his first two Major titles in the same season. No man has won the Masters and the PGA Championship in the same season since Jack Nickalus accomplished the feat in 1975 - five years before Scott was born.

With an early tee time, American Furyk sat atop the leaderboard through most of the day on Thursday. Furyk fired six birdies and a single bogey on the day, finishing with birdies on No. 16 and 18 to get to 5-under.

The 2010 Player of the Year has not been impressive so far in 2013, ranked just 55th, but he is now in pursuit of his second Major, and first in a decade.

A mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces fills out the rest of the Top 10 after Day One, with two players tied for third - the UK's Lee Westwood and Canada's David Hearn.

Westwood, largely thought as the best active player without a Major title, is rigth back in the hunt after finishing third at the British Open three weeks ago. He spaced out four birdies over the first round.

The 34-year-old Hearn, ranked 68th in the world, could have been in the lead had he not bogeyed both No. 1 and No. 18.

Three shots off the lead after one round are Australia's Jason Day and Marcus Fraser, the US' Scott Piercy, Matt Kuchar and Robert Garrigus and the UK's Paul Casey.

You have to work your way considerably further down the leaderboard to find arguably the three biggest names in the field.

Former No. 1 and defending PGA champion Rory McIlroy shot a 1-under 69 to sit tied for 23rd with 12 other players. As has been the case virtually all season, McIlroy's round was another rollercoaster ride, this time with a positive result. The 24-year-old native of Northern Ireland birdied three of his first four holes, came off the turn with a pair of bogeys and bogeyed No. 17 as well to finish a stroke under par.

World No.1 Tiger Woods, fresh off a dominant win at the WGC-Bridgesetone, started on the back nine and was 2-under at the turn. He lost control late, with a bogey on No. 4 and a disastrous double bogey on the par-4, 452-yard No. 9, a tee that has been made more difficult over the past decade, 35 yards further to the cup and with a bad rough known as "Death Valley" to the right.

Woods said he was pleased with his round while talking to the media afterwards, the same of which could not be said of British Open champ Phil Mickelson, who finished his 1-over 71 round late in the day and immediately hustled to the driving range, later telling reporters that he had to work on "everything" before the beginning of Round 2.

Mickelson had a pair of double bogeys, one of the ordinary variety, but also a string of four birdies in five holes - a fairly inexplicable performance for the five-time Major winner.

With Friday evening's projected cut set at 1-over, but Woods and Mickelson will have to improve their games on Friday to stay in the hunt.
 
 
Multiple players look to make history as PGA Championship begins
 
It's been five years since Tiger Woods' last Major championship; a year that also provided the most recent winner of two Majors in one year, and the most recent man to win two back-to-back - both those highlights provided by Ireland's Padraig Harrington.

The much-hyped Woods, ranked No. 1 in the world and coming off a dominant victory at the WGC-Bridgestone will of course be trying to break his personal losing streak of 17 Majors without a victory.

Chief rival Phil Mickelson will be attempting to become the first man since Harrington, and just the fifth man ever to win the British Open and the PGA Championship in the same season. Woods achieved the feat in both 2006 and 2000; before that, only Nick Price (1994) and Walter Hagen (1924) had ever accomplished the rare double down.

Then, there are Adam Scott and Justin Rose, the Masters and US Open champions, trying to make some unique history of their own.

Just three times in the entire history of the Majors - dating back to 1895 when the first US Open was held to give men's golf two big events (the other being the British Open) - has a man won his first Major title and come back to win his second in the same year.

The historic trio? Gene Sarazen, who won seven Majors, including the 1922 US Open and PGA Championship; Craig Wood, whose crowns at the 1941 Masters and US Open were the only two Majors of his career, and who was the last pre-World War II US Open winner as the event was not held from 1942-1945.

And then there's Jack Burke Jr., who also claimed two Majors in his career, bookending the 1956 season with victories at the Masters and the PGA Championship - the last man to win his first two Majors in the same year - 57 years ago. To make it even more of an unbelievable tale - consider that Burke, still active in the golf community at age 90 - gave putting lessons to Mickelson in recent years.

Of all the players in the field this year at the East Course of Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, it is unlikely that any of them are more hopeful of history repeating itself than 2012 defending champion Rory McIlroy.

A year ago in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, it was McIlroy, thanks in large part to a bogey free 6-under 66 on the final round dominating the field for an eight-stroke win. It was a PGA Championship record for margin of victory and made McIlroy the sixth-youngest man to have won two Majors - at the age of 23 years, three months.

McIlroy has aged just one year physically since then, but one can only speculate on his mental fatigue and weariness over the past 12 months.

The North Irishman has played 12 events on tour this year and finished in the Top 5 just once, and finished out of the Top 25 seven times.

His performance at this year's previous three Majors speaks little to his ability to turn things around this weekend; McIlroy finished tied for 25th at the Masters at 2-over; tied for 41st at the US Open at 14-over and missed the cut at the British Open after bottoming out at 12-over during the first two rounds.

09/07/13, Friday

Webb Simpson made history by tying the course record at Oak Hill Friday during round two of the PGA Championship. It was big news ... for a few hours at least, before Jason Dufner broke it.

Paced by a staggering eagle on No. 2, Dufner fired a 7-under 63, tying the PGA record for lowest score in a major, and breaking the course record that had been held by Simpson (for five hours), Curtis Strange and Ben Hogan.

Dufner is no stranger to success at the PGA Championship. He had a four-stroke lead with four holes to go in 2011, only to lose in a playoff to Keegan Bradley.

That round was long forgotten on Friday as he added five birdies to his eagle, just missing a 12-foot putt that would have broken the all-time record at a Major, but still enough to give him a two-stroke lead over Day One leaders Adam Scott and Jim Furyk, along with Matt Kuchar, who fired a 4-under 66 to surge from fifth to second.

Scott, who won the Masters to start the season, was more erratic on Friday, with three bogeys - two in the first seven holes.

Scott will be paired with Dufner in Saturday's final tee time, 2:55 p.m. Furyk was a rock of consistency again until No. 17 where he shot a bogey that kept him from closing within a stroke of Dufner. Likewise, Kuchar had a bogey-free round until No. 18.

Sitting a stroke behind those three at 6-under are US Open champion Justin Rose and Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who shot matching 4-under 66s.

Like Scott, Rose is seeking to become the first man since 1956 to win his first two Majors in the same year. The last player to win the US Open and the PGA Championship in the same season was Tiger Woods in 2000. Rose was 6-under through the front nine, then slumped with three bogeys on the back half.

The 37-year-old Stenson continues to be one of the most consistent players of the season. The Swede did not have a single bogey in his round. Sitting in fifth place through two rounds comes on the heels of his back-to-back second-place finishes at the WGC-Bridgestone and the British Open. Stenson has five Top 10 finishes in 14 events this year to date.

In total, there are 11 players within fie strokes of the lead, including Simpson, whose 6-under 64 got him to 4-under for the tournament. A futher 15 players are at least 1 stroke under par through 36 holes, including notable names like Hunter Mahan (2-under), Rickie Fowler (2-under) and Lee Westwood (1-under).

Defending champion Rory McIlroy, who shot a 1-under 69 on Thursday, looked strong through the front nine on Friday, reaching it 3-under thanks to four birdies. But McIlory's success was gone just as quickly as it emerged as he bogeyed 10, 17 and 18, and hit a double on No. 15 to finish with a 1-over 71.

For all Woods and Phil Mickelson's talk on Thursday of needing to play better, nothing came of it for either Hall of Famer on Friday. Woods shot a even-par 70 to sit 1-over for the tournament, tied for 38th and 10 strokes off the lead.

Mickelson shot his second straight 71 and is 2-over for the tournament, tied for 50th.
Notable players failing to make the cut, which was set at 3-over, included Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Davis Love III, Luke Donald, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington.

10/07/13, Saturday

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlory, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson all entered the PGA Championship field with great story lines well-known to most of the golfing public.

With one more superior round on Sunday, quiet, unassuming Jim Furyk is going to make them all remember him instead.

On a day where the Oak Hill Country Club started to win more battles than it lost as players began to tighten up under the pressure, the 43-year-old Furk shot a 2-under 68 to take a one-stroke lead to Sunday's final round.

A win would come a little more than a decade after Furyk's first major, the 2003 US Open. Only two players in golf's history have gone more than 10 years between their first and second Major titles: Julius Boros - whose first was the 1952 US Open and second the same tournament in 1963; and Ben Crenshaw who won the Masters in 1984 and again in 1995.

Two strokes behind Jason Dufner entering the day, Furyk bogeyed two of his first three holes, then righted his ship with four birdies on the next nine. His 15-foot birdie putt on No. 17 assured him the lead headed into Sunday.

Dufner was 1-over after his phenomenal 63 on friday. Dufner is one stroke back, and one stroke ahead of Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who finds another Swede crowding his airpsace after Jonas Blixt's 4-under 66 got him to 6-under and three strokes off the lead.

Scott fired a 2-over to fall to 5-back, tied with Steve Stricker. The big name on the move Saturday was from defending champion McIlroy, who found his form and fired a 3-under 67, cued by back-to-back birdies at round's end.

But six strokes might be too insurmountable a mountain for McIlroy to climb with only 18 holes left. Likewise Lee Westwood, tied with him at 3-under, as well as the trio of Dustin Johnston, Evein Streelman and Roberto Castro, all 2-under.

Johnson shot a day's low round of 5-under and Steelman was a step behind at 4-under.
Johnson, who started the day tied for 60th, shot just one bogey around six birdies.

Webb Simpson, who briefly tied the course with a 64 on Friday, shot a 3-over 73 to drop to 1-under (tied for 12th). Matt Kuchar, who was in second place on Friday, hit a birdie on No. 1, then doubled No. 3 and struggled to the tune of five more bogeys to shoot a 6-over 76.

Likewise, Rose shot a 7-over 77 to fall from fifth to tied for 28th. Rose went through a nightmarish stretch of bogey, double, bogey, double between No. 2 and 5 to see his hopes vanish quickly.

Woods had his worst round of the tournament, a 3-over 73 to take him to 4-over, tied for 48th. The 14-time Major winner again had trouble opening and closing his round, as he bogeyed No. 1, 3, 16 and 17.

British Open champ Mickelson had his worst-ever round at the PGA Championship, an 8-over 78 that included a triple-bogey 7 on No. 4, putting him in 74th place of 75 players.

11/07/13, Sunday

American Jason Dufner proved Sunday that sometimes having the memory of an excruciating loss can make winning all the more sweet.

Two years after blowing a four-stroke lead with four holes to go at the PGA Championship, he came from behind to win the title with a 10-under 270, defeating Jim Furyk by two strokes.

Dufner assured he would not waste his PGA Championship record 63 fired on Round Two by hitting a 2-under 68 on Sunday, surviving bogeys on 17 and 18, largely because Furyk bogeyed the same two holes.

"I can't believe this is happening to me ... I just decided that I was going to be confident and really put my best foot forward and play aggressive and try to win this thing," Dufner said in his winning press conference. "I wasn't going to just kind of play scared or soft."

With the victory, Dufner soars from 62nd to 14th in the FedExCup standings.

Furyk either held the lead alone or was tied for it all three of the first days. Dufner tied him with a birdie on the fourth hole, then took the lead with a birdie on No. 8. The play was magnified when Furyk bogeyed No. 9 to fall two strokes back at the turn.

The two men shot the same score on every hole of the back nine as Furyk finished 1-over for the day and 8-under for the tournament.

Sweden's Henrik Stenson finished third with a 7-under 273, after taking second at the British Open last month.

Stenson bogeyed No. 1, but made up for it with an eagle on No. 4 that pulled him within one stroke of Furyk and Dufner. Two bogeys in the final five holes did Stenson in.

Fellow Swede Jonas Blixt also shot a 70 in the final round and finished fourth overall at 5-under.

Masters winner Adam Scott, who was lurking four strokes back after three rounds, could not find his consistency and it cost him a chance at a serious run as he hit five bogeys and five birdies to settle for a 70 of his own.

The most impressive man in the final round was American Scott Piercy, who started Sunday nine strokes off the lead at even par. After bogeying No. 2, he ran off six birdies in the next eight holes and shot a 65 for the day to tie Scott for fifth at 5-under.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy, who used a 67 on Saturday to surge to 3-under, was to 4-under after three holes, but saw his momentum completely unravel with a nightmarish triple-bogey 7 on No. 5, which dropped him out of the competition.

He finished at 3-under, tied or eighth with Jason Day, Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson.US Open champion Justin Rose followed up his ugly 77 on Saturday with a 72 to finish 3-over, tied for 33rd.

Fourteen-time Major winner Tiger Woods managed an eve-par 70 to finish 4-over for the tournament, tied for 40th. After dominating the WGC-Bridgestone a week ago, Woods did not have a single round under even par at the PGA Championship.

British Open champion Phil Mickelson had one of his worst Major performances in some time, finishing 12-over for the weekend and tying for 72nd.
 
 
 

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