KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- This PGA Championship has brought another meaning to the old phrase, "Hold on to your hats!" The wind was so stiff Friday that it swept caps off people's heads, onto the 18th green. The traditional meaning holds true, too: Get ready for a ride. Tiger Woods is tied for the lead.
Woods gained ground in the gusts, which reached 38 miles per hour, and heads into the weekend tied with old rival Vijay Singh and Carl Pettersson at 4 under par, poised to grab his first major championship victory since 2008. That will require a change in the 2012 wind for Woods, who has averaged 72.3 on Saturdays and 73.1 on Sundays in the previous three majors. This time, unlike those times, Woods has a reasonably hot putter in his hands.
He sank a 40-foot birdie attempt on the fourth, one of only 11 putts on the front nine, 26 on the day with 11 one-putt greens. He made just about everything else he needed until he bogeyed No. 18 to finish with a 1-under 71. "Hey, I'm right there, with a chance," Woods said. "I like that."
The average score on the Ocean Course was 78.11, making the 69 by 49-year-old Singh really stand out. "You know, after a while, you don't even think about your score," Singh said.
The wind made all the difference on a course that had benignly given up many good scores Thursday morning. Players said the difficulty was in the fact that, unlike traditional links courses, Kiawah Island has elevated greens. That means it is just about impossible to keep the ball under the breeze and run it up toward the hole. "It's a linksy type of feel, in which you can't use the ground at all," Woods said.
"No one knows how to hit the ball on a day like this," said Pettersson, who was at 7 under, holding a two-shot lead, before he bogeyed three holes in a row late in his second round. He said the only time he played in worse conditions was the third round of the 2002 British Open, when it was cold and raining hard, as well as windy. Woods shot 81 that day and lost his chance to win a third consecutive major and a shot at the Grand Slam.
"This was like that, only 50 degrees warmer," Woods said.
A bigger difference is that, instead of trying to win four majors in one year, he is shooting for his first one in four years. "I'll just play it out," he said after a round that included a near chip-in on nine (almost reminiscent of his famous shot at Augusta). "I know that once I get in a rhythm of playing and being able to practice and work on the things that Sean wants me to work on, things will get better. And they have . . . I'm starting to see some nice consistency, and I'm very pleased by that."
It will be hard for anyone to stay consistent if the gusts keep coming this weekend. Other golfers tumbled down the leader board Friday: Rory McIlroy was pleased to drop only from 5 under to 2 under. John Daly fell from 4 under to 1 over. So did Keegan Bradley.
Even putting is a challenge, and the rounds seem to take forever. Golfers walk off, appearing as if they had been beaten up. "Because we did," Woods said.
Pettersson, who often mentions his own ample waistline and his penchant for beer late at night, said, "Yeah, they are long rounds, but that's why I go to the gym every day."
He was only kidding. He cannot run like the wind.