22 May 2021 | Professional golf |

Tough day for Aussies at PGA

by Martin Blake

Phil Mickelson PGA image

In the toughest conditions that Cameron Smith could recall, the eight-man Australian charge faltered at the PGA Championship at windy Kiawah Island resort in South Carolina today.

Smith is the leading Australian at one over par through two rounds of the season’s second major championship, just inside the top 30 after shooting 72-73.

Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and legendary Phil Mickelson hold the lead at the halfway point, reaching five under par overall. Another major specialist, Brooks Koepka, is just a shot further back.

Taking advantage of the calmer morning conditions, the 50-year-old Mickelson shot a 69, with a 31 on the front nine, raising the notion of a sixth major championship win eight years after the previous one.

Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was superb today until he bogeyed the difficult final hole to post a 68.

High hopes were held for Sydney’s Cameron Davis, who shot an opening 69, but the 2017 Australian Open champion did not bring his best today.

The Seattle-based Aussie began with a double bogey at the par-four 10th, his first hole of the day, after hitting his tee shot way right. At the par-five second hole he found water off the tee then had a further penalty drop on his way to a triple bogey eight, and he carded a 78 for the day.

In context Smith’s 73 was solid, including a water ball at the long par-three 17th. “It’s probably the two hardest condition days I’ve seen, to be honest,” said the Queenslander. "Maybe a few days around Augusta here and there, the British Open can get windy and wet, as we all know, but no, pretty tough stuff.

“I mean, a score is still out there, which I love. I think the course has been set up really nice. It’s just that you’ve got to kind of get lucky with those longer putts going in.”

Six of the eight Australians made the cut which fell at five over par.

Adam Scott (72 today) and Marc Leishman, who dropped three shots on the last two holes, both missed out. But Sydney's Matt Jones, Western Australian Jason Scrivener and Victorian Lucas Herbert are in at four over par, Herbert playing his way through with a nice 72 today after forgetting to bring his golf clothes.

"Yeah, I just feel like I've just gotten out of a fight and I've won," said Herbert, whose warm-up was interrupted as he waited for a friend to drive back to his rental house and fetch his proper attire.

Herbert called coach Dom Azzopardi at home, so concerned was he as he prepared. "I got on the range straight back into the wind, and I think I hit about four 2-irons in a row over the left fence.

"So I FaceTimed my coach with like nine minutes till my tee time going, how do I fix this? There's something really, really wrong. How do I fix this? It was like, we just had a laugh because it can't get any worse. This is going to be a fun day. We're going to be shouting fore left a lot."

Jason Day thought he had missed the cut after posting 74-75, but at five over par he scraped in despite troubles on the greens. "It's funny, I feel really positive about my game," said Day. "There's a lot of good signs out there. I just somehow just got to get over the putting part."

As for the others, Mickelson was the headline act, although he was at a loss to explain the resurgence.

“I don't know if I have a great answer for you,” he said. “I think that I was patient even though things weren't quite going well at the moment, and I had a few shaky strokes on 16, 17 and 18 where I was very tentative. I was able to make an adjustment on the front and ended up making some really good putts. I putted very well.”

Mickelson has been playing well on the senior tour, but this was unexpected. “Physically I feel like I'm able to perform and hit the shots that I've hit throughout my career, and I feel like I can do it every bit as well as I have, but I've got to have that clear picture and focus,” he said. “So these first two days have been much better.”

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