5:48 Can't get over how tough the course played today, after it seemed like it was setting up to be easy-going earlier in the day. My guess is that the greens weren't just slow, but inconsistent. Hopefully the ball will be rolling a little more predictably the rest of the weekend. 5:45 Anthony Kim saves par to finish +11 for the tournament so far. Great to see him swinging, regardless of his score. He's such a huge part of the US Ryder Cup equation–without him in at least good (if not great) form, the Americans might as well stay home at and play with themselves. 5:42 The only "surprise" toward the top of the leaderboard is Swede Peter Hanson who's T4 at -5. I don't know much about him, but he's been a serviceable player at the very least, with one win this year. 5:39 Phil and Rory both finish out their days with a par. Phil's in a great spot, just one off the lead. But don't take your eyes off McIlroy tomorrow. He actually had the better ball-striking day of the two of them, and with a few more clutch putts he could easily be a force down the stretch this weekend. 5:36 Phil's ball actually rolled down out of the deep stuff and into a bunker, one of the few times that's ever a good thing. Phil being Phil hit a MONSTER flop out of the sand and landed it within 5 feet. 5:34 Rory sticks the green on 18, while Phil leaves his a little short, which puts him in a very tough spot–in deep rough (that's given everyone fits so far) and a pretty sizable ridge in front of him. How high a ridge, I could not tell. 5:32 Els can't finish his day in style. He pars the hole and the day to stay at -1, still very much in the race if not in the thick of things. He was clearly furious about his missed birdie chance…I'm pretty sure I saw him blink. 5:29 Mickelson hits hardwood again on 18, but gets a friendly bounce back into the first cut of rough. Phil's having a very good round for a guy who's spent so much time communing with the forrest. 5:26 Sir Nick barely comments on what makes Bubba Watson so easy to like, immediately changing the subject. That's probably because he doesn't like Bubba Watson. Which, I can assure you, says a lot more about Nick Faldo than it does about Bubba Watson. 5:24 Watson says that he struggled with the speed of the green, likely because of the rain last night. While I'm sure that's true, Bubba, unless you were putting off the tee, it doesn't really explain your 71. 5:21 Both McIlroy and Mickelson par 17 (seriously impressive considering Mickelson's wayward drive). Phil's already sitting pretty, but Rory could really use to move into that pack at -4 before tomorrow's round. 5:20 Reader Clyde Weiss with a great suggestion for what to call the non-cut cut day:
How about "change your partner day"
I like it! Good thing Westwood pulled out, or he and Tiger might have been paired together tomorrow, ruining it. 5:18 Watson finishes up with a par, leaving him at +1 for the day, but -5 for the tournament, just two off the lead. Hard to really put his round into words because he was so wild. I can't decide if he should be upset at all his missed opportunities or ecstatic that he only lost one stroke. 5:15 Sounds like the guy who got hit is fine. Phil doesn't seem too concerned about it, or at least not nearly as concerned as he is with the pickles he's left himself in. He's had to hit far too many recovery shots for a guy who's trying to concentrate on driving accuracy. 5:12 Phil just lost a drive right and somebody paid the price, getting hit squarely in the chest. He/she seemed to be alright, but man, that was a scary one. How about a "Fore!" Lefty? 5:10 Odd year so far from Camillo Villegas, who's really struggled this week and currently sits at +8 for the tourney. He's already got a win and 5 top-10s, but he played poorly in each of the first 3 majors and can't seem to get over the hump. Consistency is the name of the game on the PGA Tour, and right now he doesn't have it. 5:06 McIlroy puts a perfect spin on the ball but just can't find the cup, while Phil rolls in an absolute no-doubter. Phil looks extremely comfortable over the ball right now, in a way that he didn't even at the beginning of this round. He's 1-stroke off the lead. 5:03 Both Rory and Phil have decent birdie opportunities at 16, but I can't help but feel neither really went at the pin on a par-5 that's been playing relatively hard today. Maybe it's a little early in the weekend for that kind of aggressiveness though. 5:01 If Phil keeps playing as he is (and likewise for Tiger), there's a seriously good chance he'll take over the #1 spot. Hard to say how big a deal that really is, but it certainly doesn't feel as monumental as it probably would have had it happened a year ago. 4:59 Speaking of which, what do you call Friday at a WGC event? It's clearly not "cut" day, but it's also a little early for "moving" day. Maybe "setup" day or "if we weren't so elitist it would be cut day" day? 4:57 Quite a few guys who played earlier are sitting quietly at -4 and will likely look to make a charge tomorrow, including Adam Scott, Nick Watney, M.A. Jimenez and the always dangerous (when healthy) Paul Casey. 4:54 Bubba finally misses a short putt (just outside the 3-foot margin) for an ugly bogey to go back to -5. Seems like nobody can get anything going today, making the -5s put up by Goose and Dustin Johnson looking more impressive by the minute. 4:52 Sir Nick has dubbed this "audience participation day" at Firestone, and I can't say he's wrong. Considering this is among the best fields in professional golf, it's amazing how many balls are being played from adjoining fairways. 4:50 Phil shows his mettle with a long birdie on 15 after that double-bogey. McIlroy can't quite match him, running his ball just past the hole. Phil moves back to -5, Rory will stay at -3. 4:48 Kenny Perry is stumbling to the finish with a bogey and double in his last three holes, but he'll have a birdie chance on 17 to try to move back to -3. 4:46 Word from the clubhouse is that Westwood's injury is just wear and tear on his previous injury, and that there's nothing structurally wrong (or at least not more than there was before). It sounds like he's going to take the next 4-6 weeks off to heal, though you'd have to think he'll play at least one or two tournaments before teeing it up at Celtic Manor. 4:44 Not really shocking, but worth noting: Anthony Kim is at +9. I won't start worrying about him until just before the Ryder Cup–this is actually a great tournament for him to come back at, since he'll be able to play all four days regardless of how he scores. 4:42 Watson nails another long birdie putt to move back to -6. If he can get another one he'll be feeling great. Not too many rounds where you can card a double-bogey and still be tied for the lead. 4:40 Rory misses an opportunity for birdie on the same hole. He's playing plenty well today, he just can't seem to string his good shots together. Phil follows by missing the bogey putt (continuing my streak of quietly killing these guys). He'll drop all the way to -4, just one better than McIlroy. 4:38 After two ridiculously hard approach shots (one from a fairway bunker on the wrong fairway and one from behind a tree), Phil puts a 70-foot par putt dead on the hole…only to see it lip out. He should be able to save bogey on 14. 4:36 Speaking of players whose rounds I completely ruined, Vijay has played his way all the way down to +3. Clearly he's just saving his energy for Whistling Straits. 4:33 Some of our readers may have hurt Stricker's confidence, but at least his putting stroke has returned. He birdies 14 to move back to -1. Again, without those low numbers being put up, anything under par at this point is well within range of the lead. Goosen is probably pretty psyched at the moment. 4:31 Watson makes par at the 5th, his second since that double-bogey. The good news is that he's settled down and is still only 2 strokes off the lead. The bad news is that both those pars could have been birdies. 4:29 Love Kevin Barton's Bo Van Pelt suggestion–frankly, he's one of the guys I was talking about when I suggested that the guaranteed spots are far from settled. Van Pelt is in the clubhouse at -5, in 5th place. A run this weekend and a good showing next week and you could be seeing Bo in Wales regardless of what Corey Pavin thinks about it. 4:27 Does anyone else think it's funny that this blog is a featured link on SI.com? And my parole officer said I'd never amount to anything! 4:24 Rory picks up a stroke on 13, moving back to -3. Let's see if he can keep going in the right direction–he's been ping-ponging between -1 and -3 all day. 4:21 Want to go back to a comment reader Justin made earlier:
Tiger has quite a knack recently for turning an 80 into a 74…impressive in a way, but not nearly good enough. Not a fan of his, never have been, but one would think that sooner or later he is going to turn this thing around. Maybe Tiger will be making that call to Sean Foley!
Tiger's play has been mystifying this year. As Justin notes, he's really saved some dreadful rounds (today is a perfect example) with some great saves and iron play. But, in the same vain, he's turned a lot of 66s into 72s also, with some dreadful putting, most notably in the British Open. very odd year for him so far. 4:17 Els just misses a beauty of a downhill putt, so he settles for par on 14, staying at -1. With the way things were shaking out early, I would have thought he'd be pretty far out by now, but with the leader at -7, Els will still be in striking distance barring a meltdown at the end of the day. 4:14 Very interesting Cup suggestion from Brady Minter. I agree with both you and Craig that Mahan's a no-brainer–he's exactly the right guy for any Ryder Cup team. Duval is intriguing, but I just don't see it. He's far too inconsistent (as you imply) and you're always going to be worried that he's just not going to show up. Very interesting though. 4:11 Watson ended up making that double-bogey, and it's gotten to the point where Sir Nick is actively "taking the piss" out of him. Frankly, I think Faldo's got a little bit of driver envy. 4:09 Phil and Rory will both settle for par at the 12th. It seems like each time one of them gets ready to make a charge they take a step back. Something tells me Phil's not done for the day though. 4:07 Justin: I think Barnes is a very interesting possibility, as Ryan Moore would be for similar reasons. Still, I doubt either of them are going to make the cut with so many more established players (and winners) to choose from. I agree with both of your other ones though, both Cink and Watson are very likely. 4:05 Watson is completely falling apart on the 3rd…he's got a double-bogey putt with some meat on the bone. 4:03 Watson is great with his wedges, but not today. His pitch into the green barely cleared the water on 3, after another terrible pitch after that 340-yard bomb on his first nine. Sir Nick was almost offended by that last effort, he literally had no words for it. 4:01 My jinxing knows no bounds today, not only is Stricker struggling, but Watson just had to play a little punch wedge from the 2nd fairway. The problem? He's on the 3rd hole. 3:59 Wow, big news: Westwood pulled out of the weekend, and out of the PGA Championship with that leg injury that's been bothering him the last few weeks. Got to give him credit, he clearly wants to be healthy for the Ryder Cup (not that he's doing very well trying to play through the pain. 3:56 Thanks Toby, good catch, that was an unfortunate time for a typo, it's the top-8 players who are assured spots on the team. 3:53 Bubba Watson, who, I assure you, is still playing, birdies 13 to move back into a tie for the lead at -7…good thing he didn't just stop after 9 like I wanted him to. 3:50 Definitely the most knowledgeable blog crowd we've had in a while, so I want to throw another question out there. If the Ryder Cup points stay the same over the next couple weeks (they won't, but hey, it's hypothetical), who do you think should be the three American Captain's picks? Remember, top-9 get in automatically. 3:46 In case you were wondering what's actually going on out on the course, the answer is: not much. Phil and Bubba have both evened out and are in pouncing position at -6. I'm a little surprised that the accommodating conditions haven't led to a few more 65s. 3:44 Great breakdown of Stricker's game by reader Kevin Barton:
Concerning Steve Stricker and his disappearances in the majors, I think you chalk it up to his game – doesn't have the length to hit short irons into the greens so he's hitting long irons in, and if you watch his ball flight its actually quite low. Whenever there are rock hard greens, you always see Steve's ball skidding off to the back rough or scampering into bunkers, he puts very little spin on it and the ball trajectory has it coming in hot. Consequently he isn't scoring enough to counter balance the necessary bogeys that occur during major championships, and he skids down the leaderboards. Simply put, he can't hit the high, soft 5 irons that a Woods or Mickelson can, therefore he can't hold the greens. His best chance, in my eye, is actually at a links course where his game should shine. But historically speaking, he has never fared well at the British Open either.
I think that's really dead on–but what it tells me is that Stricker isn't a great match for Augusta (or, this year, Pebble). I actually think that Stricker's best shot will come at a more typical US Open course (rather than the British), where deep rough challenges less accurate players. 3:40 The WGC is great and all, but I honestly feel bad that it takes away from the Turning Stone Championship, which I think is the most underrated tourney on the PGA Tour. This is the first time in 3 years I've missed it, and I definitely regret not going up there. There's something about how laid back everybody is that makes it a ton of fun…although maybe they're so laid back because they know nobody's watching. 3:37 Tighthead is right to point out that the "winning the week before major" idea isn't airtight. Not only has Phil done it already, but Tiger actually did it at this tournament, winning in 2007 before going on to win the PGA Championship the next week. Still, I think it's happened less than a dozen times in 80 years, so it's a rarity. 3:34 A lot of interesting comments about my Steve Stricker question, which boil down to two different opinions as to why he struggles in the majors: it's his head or it's his game. I'm willing to believe the first more than the second, but only barely. I think a lot of it boils down to luck and opportunity. As far as Craig's opinion that his game isn't up to snuff on harder courses, I can't argue with any sort of proof (because, as you know, there really isn't any), but I will point out that a lot of us said the exact same thing about Phil before he finally got that first Masters win. 3:32 Mickelson actually did end up taking the safe route, well short. Rory makes a more aggressive play from a much better lie and he's up on the green. 3:31 Phil's completely boxed in here…he's got two choices–a safe play over the trees or a wicked shot under them. Gee, wonder what he's going to do. 3:29 Reader Justin Johnosn points out that I'm a complete moron, and Watson only finished out his front-nine, not his round…in other news, reader Justin Johnson has been summarily banned from this blog. 3:27 Even with the short driver, Phil won't make it through the round without some wood on his ball, he just banked on solidly off a tree on the par-4 9th. Absolute banana ball. 3:25 Interesting note from Nick Faldo earlier today. Yesterday, a lot of people were talking about how "lucky" Woods was that there is no cut in this tournament, but Faldo looks at it another way, saying that Woods would MUCH prefer to have been cut, so he'd have to opportunity to just go home and work on his game. Can't argue with that, but at this point I think Woods needs as much tournament golf as he can get. 3:23 Going back to Watson's bogey, at least it was from 6-feet. Watson's made over 530 putts from inside 3 feet. He hasn't missed one all year. 3:22 Reader Bryon Neufold puts some numbers on McIlroy's mental toughness, and he couldn't be more right. Barring a resurgent Tiger (and that's a big qualification), Rory's likely the favorite going into at least one of next year's majors. 3:20 Naturally, Vijay follows up my sleeper call but completely blowing one past the hole. He'll finish up +2 for the tourney…maybe he'll make me look smart the rest of the weekend. 3:19 Watson has a bit of trouble finishing out, bogeying 18 to drop back to -6. Still in great position for the weekend, but that's going to be bugging him at the 19th hole. 3:17 My sleeper for next week: Vijay Singh. He hasn't played great this week, but he's playing way better than he has most of the year. He's already won one at Whistling Straits, and I can't help but feel that Vijay's got one more big one in him. 3:15 Reader Craig wants to know how much distance Phil's losing with his short driver (he sliced a full inch off after the British Open). The short answer: I don't know. The number say that he's averaged 305 yards (mostly because he averaged 310 yesterday on much harder fairways), but to my eye he's playing about the same length as McIlroy, which I would say is much closer to 290-300. Most importantly, he's hitting the fairway, so expect this driver to stick around for the PGA Championship. 3:11 McIlroy claws his way back to -2. To be this mentally tough at this age…get used to him folks, he's not going anywhere. 3:09 Sean O'Hair will stay at -4 after missing a decent birdie bid. More importantly, Sean O'Hair is only 28 years old! How is that humanly possible? 3:05 I know it's supposed to be my job, but can any of you tell me why Stricker isn't constantly competing for majors? As far as I'm concerned he's the second best player on Tour (sorry, Phil) and his swing should be perfectly suited for the majors–it's (in theory) pressure-proof. Any ideas? 3:04 Steve Stricker blows one past the hole and settles for par on 7 to stay at -2. The usually sure-handed putter has had two poor efforts already today, hopefully not a sign of things to come. 3:02 Another reason I like Watson: his drive on 17 went over 340 yards…uphill. 3:00 As we ge tto 3:00 EST, the sun is out in force and it looks like the bad weather is done for the day, but don't expect the greens to firm up too much. 2:57 If it seems like I'm rooting for Watson, I am, and I'll tell you why. First, he's just a really nice guy. Second, and more important, it looks more and more likely that Tiger's going to fall out of a guaranteed Ryder Cup spot. If that happens, and if he decides he wants to take a captains pick that will surely be offered, that's one less pick for Pavin to make on another player. If another good candidate like Watson takes that guaranteed spot, there's no loss. If a good, but slightly less worthy player like Jason Bohn takes it…well, I've said too much already. 2:54 Watson finally makes his move with a birdie to move him into a tie for the lead at -7. 2:52 From reader Toby Baird:
What about the dreaded "no one wins a major after winning the previous week" curse? Would Phil be better off with a easy runner up or third place finish?
Normally I actually buy into stuff like this, just because it always seems to hold true (right up until it doesn't). But in a world where Stuart Appleby can shoot 59, isn't anything really possible? 2:50 Sir Nick Faldo seems to be angling for the head greenskeeper job at Firestone–he just can't get over how much Bubba Watson rips up the course. 2:48 Mickelson and McIlroy both par the 5th, staying at -5 and -1 respectively. 2:47 Great to see Perry in the hunt. It's been kind of a down year for him, considering had 5 wins and 15 top-10s the last two years. It seemed like the Ryder Cup was his biggest motivator in 2008, but I guess Celtic Manor doesn't exactly provide the same incentive as Valhalla did for the Kentuckian. 2:46 Speaking of guys who love the Ryder Cup, Kenny Perry is in the heat of contention at -4 (with a shot at birdie). 2:43 Yesterday's leader Bubba Watson has been a par-machine so far today, and I think that bodes well for him. Goosen has had a lot of trouble closing this year, and I would actually make Watson my second-favorite (after Phil) at this point. Watson wants to make the Ryder Cup team badly, and I think he's going to show it this weekend. 2:40 Mickelson banks a double-breaker off a spike mark for birdie and -5 total. If there were a HORSE-style golf game, Mickelson would be the Michael Jordan. 2:38 Rory chips a ball so fat that it doesn't escape the rough…let's just chalk that up to a rookie mistake…his next chip goes about 6 feet past the hole, so he's got that coming back for bogey. 2:35 Have to mention that Henrik Stenson is even through 2 after his less-than-stellar 79 yesterday. I think that score's a little deceptive though, as Stenson was clearly thrown off by Firestone CC's "No shirt, No Shoes, No Golf" policy. 2:32 Cheesehead (and #4 player in the world) Steve Stricker makes par to stay at even for the day, -2 for the tourney through 4. He's obviously got his mind on Whistling Straits, but it would be nice for him to get some momentum going in there, as well as he was playing earlier in the year this could be his best chance for his first major win. 2:28 The 3rd becomes an equalizer for M&M, Phil drops a shot and McIlroy picks one up, which brings them both back to where they started the day–minus-4 and minus-2. 2:26 Reader Craig says that it seems like Tiger's driving is letting him down, and there's no doubt about that. Up until today I would have said that Tiger's putting was far more troublesome than his driving, but this morning he was quite literally all over the place. Tiger hit only 3 fairways today, and he's dead last in that for the tournament. Frankly, Tiger's recovery shots (even with his game in its current state–let's not kid ourselves, he hit 3 fairways and only went +2) are so good that he doesn't have to hit the fairway all the time…but he's got to hit it more often than that. 2:23 Rory McIlroy watches Phil play one over the green on 3 (into a bunker) and adjusts accordingly, sticking his shot for a great birdie opportunity. 2:21 Oosty Oosthuizen (yes, I'm still going to call him that) makes the green in 2 on the par-5 2nd. He's at +2 so far, looking to prove a few doubters wrong this week (or, if he's smart, just looking to have a good time). 2:19 Am I the only person who has no opinion whatsoever about Justin Leonard? 2:18 From Justin Leonard: the holes are playing long today, but the greens are super soft, so there are good scores out there to be had. 2:15 Speaking of Phil, he just tapped in for birdie on 2 after missing a decent opportunity on the first hole. He'll move to -5 while Rory pars. 2:14 While Westwood/Woods might have disappointed this morning, the real super-group is out on the course right now in the form of Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy who came into the day at -4 and -2 respectively. If Goosen isn't in the lead at the end of the day, don't be surprised if one of these two is. 2:12 Maybe I spoke to soon about the fairways staying true. Goosen described the course as soft, but not easy, as the damp fairways have a lot of give, turning 8-iron approaches into 5-irons. 2:10 Goosen's had a really solid year, lots of finishes towards the top of the leaderboard and this weekend is shaping up to be no different. What would be different? Finishing the job. Goose has made the top-10 in over half of his starts this year (7 out of 13), but he's still looking for his first win. 2:08 Goosen was actually at -5 most of the back nine, but he muffed a putt on 18 to drop the stroke. Hopefully that's not a sign of things to come for Goosen…the last thing he needs is a balky putter this weekend with the amount of talent pooling behind him. 2:06 As far as who's moved down the board, look no further than the super-pairing of Woods and Westwood, which had another tough day today, Woods going plus-2 and Westwood completely falling apart with a 76. They stand at +6 and +7 respectively, and can officially be written off for the weekend. 2:04 Need to mention that the weather has been a little choppy so far, with a little rain already and possibly some more to come. The greens are pretty damp, but the fairways seem true. 2:02 Big movers from the early action: Retief Goosen worked his way into the lead by going -4, putting him a stroke ahead of Justin Leonard, who also carded a 66 to put him at -6 for the tourney. In with the low round of -5 were Dustin Johnson, who's now at -3 for the tourney and James "Funky" Kingston, but he only made his way to Even par overall. 2:00 Good afternoon folks, Golf Magazine's Steve Beslow here to take you through the rest of the second round of this year's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club (or the WGCFBAFCC for "short").