Tiger Woods took a huge step back towards the summit of golf with a battling 71 on Kiawah Island yesterday.
There were more rounds in the 90s than there were in the 60s – just a 69 from Vijay Singh – after fierce winds arrived early and stayed for the rest of the USPGA Championship second round.
Joint 14th after an opening 69, four-time champion Woods made a significant move towards grabbing his 15th Major and regaining the world number one spot.
It was spoilt somewhat by a closing three-putt bogey and that left him joint halfway leader – as he was at the US Open in June – with Singh, at 49 trying to become the oldest Major winner in history, and first-round leader Carl Pettersson.
England’s Ian Poulter would have been alongside them but for also three-putting the last for a 71.
Woods said: “For some reason the putts were going in early on, but a couple of times I got blown and had to make an adjustment.
“It was just one of those tough days. Fun, but really tough and there was no such thing as an easy tap-in.
“We don’t play courses like this. It’s not a typical PGA Championship venue, but I’m in good shape.”
Pettersson led by two after holing out from sand at the first – his 10th – but had a hat-trick of bogeys from the sixth and so had to settle for a 74.
Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, meanwhile, have two strokes to make up after scoring 75 and 73 respectively.
McIlroy, joint second overnight, needed to dig deep when he had four bogeys in the first 13 holes, but even though he dropped another stroke at the 15th it came either side of two birdies.
“It was tough,” the 23-year-old said. “It was hard getting the ball on the fairway and then onto the green – and then on the green is probably the most difficult bit.
“I could have been a couple of shots better, but I limited the damage and I’m in a good position.”
Graeme McDowell, four-under overnight, fell back to level-par with a 76, while world number one Luke Donald had the same score and after a long wait to learn his fate squeezed into the final 36 holes with nothing to spare.
“I actually played decent and got nothing out of it,” Donald said. “I hung in there pretty well and I hit a lot of shots that I thought would give me a putt for birdie and I ended up taking bogey.
“The frustration builds, but I’m not making any excuses. There’s still other things to look for and it makes me more determined to keep working hard.”
Donald was not alone in thinking he had probably got the wrong end of the draw.
Padraig Harrington also shot 76 to drop back to two-over respectively and Justin Rose’s 79 saw him tumble from three-under to four-over.
Harrington is fully aware of Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s comments on Wednesday that the three-time Major winner needed to do “extraordinary” things to come into the reckoning for his side.
The Dubliner would have to win this week to force his way in on points. Sergio Garcia is currently in the 10th and last automatic spot, but his 75 for seven-over left him in danger of requiring a captain’s pick as well.
As for the American team, this is their last week of qualifying and Phil Mickelson, in the last qualifying position, did his chances no harm at all in front of captain Davis Love with a 71 to stand level-par.
Earlier, Donaldson shot 73 – 20 strokes better than one of his playing partners, American club professional Doug Wade.
“Just a brutal test of golf,” Donaldson said. “The whole thing is very difficult and frustrating at times.
“We have two more days to grind. I’ll just try to take it one shot at a time.”
Winner of the Irish Open last month on the links of Royal Portrush – his first European Tour victory in 255 starts – Donaldson was prospering at another seaside venue and in more tough weather.
Paul Lawrie, close to securing a Ryder Cup return after 13 years, shot 75 for four over – three worse than compatriot Martin Laird (74) – while Simon Dyson crashed to an 80 and struggling Paul Casey an 85 including two eights.
Last year’s Open champion Darren Clarke had a 76 for five-over, while stablemate Lee Westwood was seven over with one to go and needing a birdie.