Dufner ties Major record with 63 to move into pole position
US open champion Rose fires a 66 to move right into contention at Oak Hill
Jason Dufner hits from the fairway on the 14th hole during the second round of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill. Photograph: AP
You really don’t know these days, do you? When the US Open visited Merion in June, the expectation was that the course would be devoured. It wasn’t. Here, for the 95th edition of the US PGA championship, the belief was that the course would devour the players. It hasn’t. Instead, aided by rainfall which has had the effect of widening fairways and softening greens, those in pursuit of the Wanamaker Trophy have - for the most part - enjoyed a birdie fest.
As Adam Scott and Justin Rose, two of those who have already savoured Major glory this year, threw their hats into the ring with greedy intent, the East Course - which has earned a reputation over the years as one of championship golf’s hardest taskmasters - was transformed into a beautifully manicured arena for target golf as the world’s best players took aim at the pins.
On a day which started with heavy rain that necessitated severe warning warnings to be posted to the leaderboards scattered around the tree-lined course, but thankfully with no need for any suspension of play, the skies cleared in the afternoon to allow those later starters to at least enjoy the occasion.
For those who had laboured through the downpours, there was only the solace that the rain gear, and their attentive caddies, had enabled them to weather the storm.
Yet, even amidst the deluge, players managed to score. Webb Simpson, for one, could do no wrong. The 2011 US Open champion shot a 64 that equalled the course record. “All I saw in front of us today was Webb picking his ball up out of the hole. He seemed to make everything,” said Rory McIlroy, who himself only discovered the art of birdie-making over his final seven holes which he covered in four-under to rescue his round and stay in the championship. McIlroy shot a 71, to reach the mid-point on the 140, level par, mark.
Simpson’s 64 propelled him up the leaderboard. At one point of his first round on Thursday, Simpson was five-over through eight holes before turning things around. Yesterday was one of those days when he could do no wrong, until missing a couple of birdie chances late on when it looked likely he would match the feat of joining those 23 players with recorded rounds of 63 in Major history, last accomplished by Steve Stricker in the 2011 US PGA at Atlanta.
There were other examples of stellar play in this final Major of the year: Rose, for his part, covered his back nine (which happened to be the front nine) in 29 shots, whilst Sweden’s Peter Hanson required just 30 strokes for the back nine.