KOHLER, WISCONSIN // Matt Kuchar made the most of an timely break in the inclement weather to grab the clubhouse lead in the second round of the US PGA Championship yesterday. Kuchar added a 69 to his opening round of 67 to reach the halfway stage at eight under par and leading by one shot from his fellow American Nick Watney, who carded a 68, with a group of seven players, including Britain's Rory McIlroy and South Korean teenager Noh Seung-yul, a further shot back at five-under.
Exactly half of the 156-player field, including world No 1 Tiger Woods, failed to finish their second rounds after spending most of the day cooling their heels following another delayed start at the Whistling Straits course that hugs the coastline of Lake Michigan. Almost six hours were lost on the first two days because of the thick blanket of fog each morning, leaving organisers scrambling to get the last major of the year back on schedule.
Kuchar was among the 78 players who had to complete their opening rounds yesterday morning but then got the benefit of going straight back out to play their second rounds before the wind picked up late in the afternoon. "This is certainly a great place to be," said Kuchar, whose best finish at a major was tied for sixth at this year's US Open. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to really do something great this weekend."
Britain's Simon Khan briefly joined Kuchar at eight under but bogeyed the last three holes to slip back to a tie for third and leave Watney as Kuchar's closest challenger. "The course really showed teeth today," Khan said. South Africa's Ernie Els also had trouble at the end of his round, finishing with a double bogey to end on two under. "It's not how you want to finish. It was a difficult day," said Els. "I scrambled quite well here and there but just let it go at the end there."
US Masters champion Phil Mickelson had an up and down day, struggling to find the fairway, but holed some long putts for a 69 to join Els at two under. "I just want to be in a position where if I play like I know I can, I can make up some ground," he said. "And I feel like I'm within striking distance." Woods, who shot 71 on the opening day, made a solid start to his second round, parring his first six holes to remain at one under when play was abandoned because of fading light.
Jason Dufner shot a superb 66, the lowest completed round of the day, to join Bryce Molder (67), Dustin Johnson (68), Zach Johnson (70), McIlroy, Khan and Noh at five-under. McIlroy had an adventurous day, playing one brilliant recovery shot from the water's edge, and holding his nerve in the tricky conditions to put himself in contention to challenge for his first major title. "I feel as if I'm in a really good position going into the weekend and I like the position I'm in," the Northern Irishman said.
"Only three behind at the minute. We'll see how the guys in the afternoon make out, but I feel as if I'm in a strong position and a position where I can make a charge for the weekend." McIlroy was joined by Noh, who birdied three of his five remaining holes for a first round 68 then added 71 in the afternoon. "I am so happy. I have come here as an invite and I want to play as well as I can," said Noh, hoping to emulate his compatriot Yang Yong-eun who overtook Woods on the last day to win the title last year.