Hideki Matsuyama and Kevin Kisner faced the toughest Quail Hollow had to offer and share the lead in the PGA Championship going into the weekend of the year’s final major. Odds are Quail Hollow won’t be the same test the rest of the way.
Clouds quickly gathered Saturday morning about the time some two dozen players were finishing the rain-delayed second round. Chris Stroud picked up a birdie on the par-5 seventh and completed another 3-under 68 to inch closer to the lead. He was two shots behind, along with Jason Day.
Scattered storms were expected the rest of the weekend. The change in the course was immediate after heavy rain halted play for nearly two hours Friday. Players were able to aim at flags, knowing the putting surfaces were soft enough that the ball wouldn’t roll too far.
Day spoke about being able to smash driver off the tee because it was less likely for the ball to bounce through the fairways and into the rough.
Now, it’s a sprint to the finish.
Kisner and Matsuyama, both leading a major for the first time, were at 8-under 134. Day and Stroud were two shots behind while Louis Oosthuizen and Francesco Molinari of Italy were three back. Sixteen players remained under par.
Jordan Spieth figured he was too far back to chase the final leg of the career Grand Slam this year. He didn’t take advantage of the softened conditions and shot 73 to go into the weekend 11 shots behind.
Kisner had the hardest end of the draw, when the greens Thursday afternoon were as fast they have been all year and close to the same Friday morning.
And while Matsuyama was on the better side of the draw, he did most of his damage before the storms arrived. The 25-year-old Japanese star already was 5 under for his round in tough conditions, and he added two birdies after the rain. He is simply playing some of his best golf.
The cut was at 5-over 147 when the second round ended, and there was some drama. Bernd Wiesberger returned to complete three holes. He was at 5 over, right on the cut line, but facing the two easiest holes on the front nine of Quail Hollow. If he had finished his round at 4 over that would have required one birdie and two pars _ the cut would have gone to 4 over and eliminated Adam Scott, Charles Howell III and Kevin Chappell.
Wiesberger missed birdie chances and then three-putted for bogey on the ninth hole from 50 feet. So not only did the Austrian fail to move the cut line, he wound up missing the cut with that bogey on his last hole.
It was his first missed cut around the world dating to last year’s PGA Championship. And it gave new life to Scott, who will miss the next three weeks to be with his expectant wife.
Scott is at No. 61 in the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour. By the time he returns, he will have been eliminated from the playoffs and his season would be over. So the weekend at Quail Hollow at least gave him a chance to improve his standing.