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Winged Foot suddenly gets tougher at PGA Championship

August 16, 1997

MAMARONECK, N.Y. (AP) _ Take a deep breath and wait to exhale. The leaderboard at the PGA Championship bunched up into a collection of golf’s grinders, promising a gritty weekend of golf.

Suddenly, it was like the air was sucked out of Winged Foot Golf Club on Friday as the fairways seemed tighter, the rough seemed higher, the bunkers bigger and the greens faster.

In a perfect example of the way the pressure increases with each round at a major championship, the leaders came back to the field and the guys who kept the ball in play and had touch around the greens crept up the leaderboard.

At the end of a round that had the desperate feel of watching a person swim for survival in a choppy sea, Lee Janzen _ who played 18 holes in 62 strokes beginning with No. 10 on Thursday _ shot a 67 to be at 4-under-par 136, one stroke ahead of Davis Love III.

Even Janzen felt the kick of Winged Foot, making bogeys on the final two holes as his tee shots on both found the rough.

``I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I’m still on top of the leaderboard,″ said Janzen, who won the 1993 U.S. Open.

``It’s a game of momentum,″ Janzen about his turnaround that started with a great 5-iron to the 10th green on Thursday. He shot a 31 on the final nine of the first round and another 31 on the front nine on Friday.

``Confidence is your most valuable weapon,″ he said. ``And you just try to build your confidence.″

Love, who survived a double bogey on the 16th hole, was at 137 after a 71, and seven players _ including Justin Leonard, Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples _ were at 138.

Such tournament-tough players as Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Jim Furyk, Tom Lehman, John Daly, Payne Stewart and Tom Kite were within five strokes of the lead.

On Thursday, Winged Foot was ripe for the picking, and Daly and Love matched the competitive record of 66 to share the first-round lead.

On Friday, the wing was on the other foot and massive bunkers swallowed up shots, ankle-high rough grabbed clubheads and sent balls off at odd angles, and 15-foot putts rolled 25 feet past the hole on the quick-as-a-wink greens.

``It is playing brutally tough,″ Daly said after shooting a 73 to be at 1-under-par 139.

``The greens are firming up and the pins are in some tough places,″ he said. ``I didn’t play that bad. You just can’t get the ball near the hole out there.″

Winged Foot was the hardest on the best. Only four of the 22 people who broke par in the first round could match that feat on Friday.

Leonard, one of golf’s best grinders, once again showed the grit that won the British Open last month. Six times he hit greenside bunkers, and five times was able to get up and down as he shot a 70. Leonard needed only 25 putts Friday, one more than he used on Thursday.

``To keep myself in the tournament with my short game, I do feel good about that,″ said Leonard, whose final sand save came on a 12-foot par putt on No. 18.

Woods made a move early when he started with birdies on the first two holes but hit too many wild shots into the sand and high grass as he struggled to his second consecutive even-par 70.

``I didn’t really mis-hit a shot,″ Woods said. ``I misplaced some.″

Woods said Winged Foot was the toughest by far of the four major championship courses this year.

``You’re hitting mid irons and long irons into these small greens and all the pins are tucked behind slopes,″ Woods said.

The third member of that glamour threesome _ U.S. Open winner Ernie Els _ stumbled to a 76 and was at 146.

Nick Faldo shot a 78 and missed the cut along with Fuzzy Zoeller, Steve Stricker, Jack Nicklaus and defending champion Mark Brooks. Brooks missed the cut in all four major championships this year, making him the first player to win a major and then miss all four cuts the following year.

Couples and Janzen were among the few who got the ball near the holes tucked in devilish spots. No one did better than the 67s they shot on Friday.

They made the putts when they needed them, and on No. 11, Couples didn’t even need to putt, holing a 9-iron from 140 yards for the third consecutive tournament in which he eagled a par-4 hole.

``I didn’t play a great round but got the ball around the course,″ Couples said after he bogeyed the final hole.

Daly, who made birdies on the final three holes on Thursday to shoot a 66, played those three holes 2-over par in the second round.

``The last three holes played the way they are supposed to,″ Daly said, referring to the fact that they were into the wind.

Daly, who is just three months removed from an alcohol rehabilitation program, was satisfied with his position midway through the tournament.

``If you had told me I’d be 1-under after two days, I’d have taken it,″ Daly said. ``Tomorrow’s a new day. Right now, I’ll go out and hit some balls.″

Saturday will be a new day at Winged Foot and, if the second round was any indication, an even more difficult one.

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