By Brett Avery
Seven notable second-round stats that indicate how the PGA Championship might unfold Friday at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, provided by Golf World contributing writer Brett Avery, who compiles the Rank and File statistical sections for the magazine's coverage of the major championships and other significant events.
Once again the nation of Sweden finds itself collectively crossing its fingers, hoping to become the 19th country to claim a winner of one of the four major championships. Carl Pettersson (six-under-par 66) became the second Swede to lead a major this season, following the example of Peter Hanson through 54 holes of the Masters (he tied for third). Alex Noren, making his eighth career major after T-9 in last month's British Open, eagled the 16th en route to a 67. Pettersson has cracked the top 10 in a major only twice (2008 U.S. Open, T-6; '06 British Open, T-8). Swedes have finished second in a trio of majors: Jesper Parnevik in the 1994 and '97 British and Niclas Fasth in the '01 British.
The bogey-bogey-bogey-bogey finish by Joost Luiten of The Netherlands early in the afternoon squelched hopes for the 26th instance of a player shooting 63 in a major championship--or breaking the record with 62 or better. Luiten, who began his round at the 10th tee, also blew the possibility for the first time players shot 63 in majors in three consecutive seasons--and all in first rounds, no less. Rory McIlroy posted his in the 2010 U.S. Open at Congressional and Steve Stricker went low in last year's PGA at Atlanta AC. Luiten, making his third career start in a major, staggered to the clubhouse with a 68. Despite the disappointment, he bettered his major career low: 69s in the Open Championship last year (T-45) and this year (T-63).
One day is hardly a barometer, but a comparison of potential Ryder Cup players favors the European side. Only two of the top eight on the United States points list broke par (Keegan Bradley 68, Tiger Woods 69). By comparison, five of the top 10 on the two points lists used to select the European side cracked par (Rory McIlroy 67, Graeme McDowell 68, Peter Hanson and Justin Rose 69, Francesco Molinari 70).
There are 102 of the top 103 players in the World Ranking competing after the withdrawal of No. 56 Ben Crane. That makes this one of the strongest fields in the game's history. Yet if form in recent PGAs continues this week, there's a good chance the victor will emerge from outside the world top 100. Two of the last three victors claimed that distinction: Y.E. Yang was 110th in '09 and Keegan Bradley was 108th last year. Only one man outside the world top 100 ranked in the top 10 through the first day: John Daly at 219th, who placed T-5 last week in the Reno-Tahoe Open. That was Daly's best showing on the PGA Tour since he was second to Woods in the '05 WGC-American Express Championship at Harding Park.
Compared to the other major championships since '04, the PGA has crowned more winners who stood in the world top 10 entering the week they won. The PGA has had five: Vijay Singh in '04, Phil Mickelson in '05, Tiger Woods in '06 and '07 and Padraig Harrington in '08. (The Masters has had four, the British three and U.S. Open two). Only two guys in the world top 10 stood in the top-10 standings at Kiawah Island: McIlroy (ranked third) and Adam Scott (ranked seventh).
Staying with the Ryder Cup, the eight automatic U.S. selections will be determined when the last putt drops this week. Only one of the players around the bubble broke par Thursday: Dustin Johnson shot 71. Players will earn two points for every $1,000 earned this week. First prize of $1.445 million would be worth 2,890 points while solo 70th money of $15,000 would be worth 30.
Matt Kuchar (4,448.942) E (T-45)
Phil Mickelson (4,163.608) +1 (T-66)
Hunter Mahan (4,082.228) E (T-45)
Steve Stricker (3,563.069) +2 (T-88)
Jim Furyk (3,318.116) E (T-45)
Rickie Fowler (3,313.338) +2 (T-88)
Brandt Snedeker (3,176.787) +5 (T-132)
Dustin Johnson (3,002.770) -1 (T-32)
Bo Van Pelt (2,952.981) +1 (T-66)
Since 2000, only two PGA winners did not collect a title on the PGA Tour earlier in the season: Shaun Micheel in '03 and Martin Kaymer in '10. (As an asterisk, European Tour regular Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi Championship in January '10). Of the 13 players who comprised the top 10 and ties through the first round at Kiawah Island, nine are winless this season: Aaron Baddeley, John Daly, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Joost Luiten, Graeme McDowell, Alex Noren, Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott and Gary Woodland. The four victors are leader Pettersson (Heritage), Bradley (WGC-Bridgestone), McIlroy (Honda) and Scott Piercy (Canadian).