- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

MEDINAH, Ill. — Billy Andrade, the seventh alternate in the PGA Championship, was watching the movie “You, Me and Dupree” in Atlanta three days ago. Now he’s in a four-way tie for the lead and starting to believe in fairy tales.

But this Hollywood script hasn’t even begun to take shape at Medinah.

Andrade made a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole yesterday for a 3-under 69, grabbing a share of the lead with big-hitting Henrik Stenson of Sweden, short-hitting Luke Donald of England and super-sized Tim Herron going into what should be a wild weekend.

They were at 8-under 136, all of them in the lead for the first time in a major.

And their task got a little bit tougher in the final hour of a dark, gloomy afternoon outside Chicago.

Tiger Woods, scrambling for pars early before taking advantage of the par 5s, finished off his round of 68 with a 20-foot birdie putt that left him one shot behind, along with U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and the resurgent Davis Love III.

“It’s always interesting to see where Tiger is,” Herron said. “He wasn’t on the board most of the day. He must have done something on the last few holes.”

Phil Mickelson was all over Medinah but escaped the rough on No. 18 with an approach that barely cleared a bunker and hopped onto the green to 15 feet for a birdie that gave him a 71 and put him at 4-under 140.

Andrade might be the most relaxed of the bunch, since he didn’t even expect to be here and has never fared well in the majors. The last time he made the cut in a major was the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill — as the seventh alternate, no less. And if he wasn’t at Medinah, he would be picking up the kids from school, cooking out and tackling a honey-do list.

“I’m 42 years old. I’ve been doing this for 19 years,” Andrade said. “It’s the PGA Championship. Why not me? Why not have fun with it and enjoy it? It’s not like guys like me get in this position every single major. We have a [heck] of a leader board, and I’m looking forward to continuing to have a great time.”

Herron has a little more at stake, but the rumpled one doesn’t get ruffled easily. He holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole for a 67 to move into the four-way tie, and treated it like a tap-in for par.

Donald, who won the NCAA title at Northwestern in 1999 and still has a home in the Chicago area, made it through a steady drizzle without a bogey and is helping to carry Europe’s hopes of ending its 76-year drought at the PGA Championship. Joining him was Stenson, a stoic Swede who reached 9 under until hitting into the trees on No. 18 and finishing with a bogey.

No Swede has ever won a major — at least a men’s major.

“I really need to get going to catch Annika, huh?” he said, referring to the 10 LPGA majors won by Annika Sorenstam.

He’ll have to play plenty hard to keep his nose in front.

The top 24 players were separated by four shots on a soft, vulnerable course that yielded another record day — 61 players under par yesterday, beating the mark of 60 set the day before.

The cut was at even-par 144, matching the lowest in relation to par at a PGA Championship. It was even-par 142 at Riviera in 1995.

Still, Medinah has enough trees and water to punish mistakes, so no one was able to run away from the pack.

“There’s a bunched leader board. You knew it was going to be that way with soft greens, and that’s basically what it’s turned out to be,” Woods said. “You’ve got to go out there … and make some birdies, and try not to give anything back.”

David Toms shot 67 to lead a group at 6-under 138 that included Billy Mayfair, who had surgery for testicular cancer only two weeks ago. Another shot back was a crowd that included Sergio Garcia and Mike Weir, who shared the 54-hole lead with Woods at Medinah seven years ago.

Those fireworks everyone expected from the marquee group of major champions finally arrived, just in time for them to go their separate ways on the weekend.

Woods got some outside help on the opening hole when his tee shot went left, hopped hard over a bunker and was headed down the slope until a fan reached up and swatted it down. Woods still had to pitch over the trees and short of the green, saving par with a wedge to 3 feet.

The British Open champion didn’t know what happened until after his round.

“I knew I got a weird hop,” he said. “Hey, I appreciate it. It’s nice to have Shaq out there knocking them back.”

Woods holed a 30-foot birdie on the par-5 fifth, and his other two birdies on the par 5s were inside a foot. Then came the 18th, where his 20-footer barely caught the left edge of the cup and dropped.

Mickelson’s birdie was far more exciting, as was just about everything he did yesterday.

He twice had to maneuver around the trees on the sixth hole, escaping with par by making a 25-foot putt. Carrying only one driver in the second round, he followed several tee shots with anxiety, not knowing where they would end up.

When his tee shot on the 18th clattered through the trees and dropped in the rough, he was fighting for par. Then came his approach, barely onto the green, and the crowd roared as he matched Woods with birdie.

“I’m fighting, man, I’m fighting,” Mickelson said. “I’ve just got to get it turned around.”

He still had time for a few laughs before going to the range, scooting over to where Woods was doing a television interview and holding an umbrella over his head, then turning it to let the water drip and covering Woods’ face.

Ogilvy had looked the sharpest of the three, especially with four straight birdies. He stumbled in the middle of his round but recovered with a birdie on the toughest par 3 at No. 13, and he was solid coming in for a 68.

“I can promise you, no one is scared that I’m on the leader board,” he said.

Woods sure didn’t feel that way.

“There’s a reason why he’s the U.S. Open champion,” Woods said. “If there’s any tournament in the world we have to grind it out, plod your way along, it’s the U.S. Open, especially Winged Foot. Geoff is an extremely talented player, understands how to play major championship golf, and he’s getting the job done.”

No one is having to grind for pars at Medinah. The pressure comes not from the course, but the leader board, a collection of major champions and dreamers.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide