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Devil Ball Golf

Tiger Woods manages to figure out an ugly day at the PGA Championship

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. - Sometimes you play the course, and sometimes the course plays you.

Friday at the PGA Championship was one of the more wicked days in recent championship history, a windy, humid mess of an afternoon that saw the scoring average veer closer to 80 than par. And while Tiger Woods brought home a -1 round that left him in a three-way tie for the lead, the strain of playing such a brutal course under intense conditions left him as shaken as you can be when you, you know, play golf for a living.

"It was tough out there," Woods said afterward. "Wow. You can't take anything for granted. A simple tap-in is not a simple tap-in."

The problem for players all afternoon was that the Ocean Course was the worst of two worlds: a links-style oceanside course whose Paspaulum grass was too sticky to play bump-and-run, as well as a bomb-and-backspin course whose high winds played havoc with every ball hit above eye level.

"I'm very pleased to be able to shoot anything under par today," Woods said. "That was the goal, anything par or better today was going to be a great score, and I was able to accomplish that."

[Eric Adelson: Tiger Woods ends stellar Round 2 in disappointing fashion]

He was one of only five to do so on the afternoon. On a day where winds averaged 25 to 30 mph and gusted to 38, only Vijay Singh managed to score in the 60s after 24 players pulled off the feat in Round 1. Only 10 players were under par after 36 holes.

Want more carnage? The current second-round scoring average of 78.11, which may change when Joost Luiten finishes his second round Saturday morning, is the highest in the PGA Championship's 94-year history. The cut line of +6 was the highest since Shoal Creek in 1990.

The forecast for the weekend is slightly better; winds are expected to reach "only" 20 miles per hour on Saturday and 15 mph on Sunday. Rain will slow the greens still more, further widening the gap between what golfers expect out of a course and what they'll get.

So who does this benefit? The smart players, the ones trading flash for conservative play. Sometimes, a simple par is good enough to pick up a stroke on the field. And so far, Woods is playing exactly that kind of game. Long way to go, but for Woods, so far, so good.

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