(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) —- Golf’s best are flocking to Charlotte this weekend to take part in one of the season’s most competitive tournaments.
Quail Hollow is playing host to the 99th PGA Championship, the fourth and final major of the season.
Inclement weather on Friday suspended play early for a total of one hour and 43 minutes before shortly resuming and ultimately being suspended for a second time due to darkness. The second round will be completed Saturday morning before the start of the third.
Despite the delays, a handful of players were able to battle the elements and climb the leaderboard. For the second day in a row, Kevin Kisner shot a 4-under 67, moving to 8 under for the tournament and tied for the lead with Hideki Matsuyama, who carded an impressive 7-under 64.
Here is everything you need to know regarding coverage, along with must-watch story lines and tee times for Saturday’s third round.
LEADING: Kevin Kisner and Hideki Matsuyama, who both were at 8-under 134.
JUST BEHIND: Jason Day shot a 66 to pull two strokes behind the co-leaders.
COME BACK SATURDAY: Play was suspended due to darkness with some two dozen players still on the course. They will finish Saturday morning, with the third round starting afterward.
QUEST FOR THE SLAM: Jordan Spieth shot a 73 to move to 3 over, 11 strokes behind the co-leaders. He all but conceded it will have to wait until next year.
SHOT OF THE DAY: Rory McIlroy’s third shot on the par-5 10th hole. With the ball settled in the rough of the 11th hole, McIlroy skipped his shot along the cart path into and out of the bunker, across the green and onto the fringe. He saved par two putts later.
MAKING THE CUT: For just the second time in six years, at least one club pro will make the cut. Omar Uresti shot a 70 and was at 2-over 144.
NOTEWORTHY: The course played to an average score of 73.5 — more than a full stroke lower than during Round 1.
QUOTEWORTHY: “Probably 54 would be nice.” — Spieth, on what he thinks he must shoot to get back to contention.
TELEVISION: Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (TNT), 2-7 p.m. (CBS).
CHARLOTTE – Rickie Fowler has the goods to win a major. Of that, he is supremely confident. The challenge for the 28-year-old is staying patient in his journey to seize one.
At the 99th PGA Championship, Fowler put himself in nice position heading into a major weekend for the third time this season. He closed with 76 at the Masters (T-11) and 72 at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills (T-5), but feels a comfort level beyond how he felt in 2014, when he was younger and on the rise and finished top 5 in all four.
That ’14 season was expected to be Fowler’s big springboard, but in 11 majors since his closest call at victory (2014 PGA), he has more missed cuts (three) than top 10s (one).
“This year, I feel like it’s been a new level of how comfortable in how good I felt at the majors,” Fowler said after a steady second-round 70 that kept him in contention at 3-under 139. “It’s been a fun year, definitely a big improvement from where I was last year in the majors.”
Playing alongside bombers Rory McIroy and Jon Rahm, Fowler has been methodical in his play over two days at a toughened, revamped Quail Hollow. He hit only nine greens, but missed shots in the right spots and scrambled very well (8 of 9), making only one bogey on the day. As days on a difficult demanding golf course go, it appeared relatively stress-free.
After getting into red numbers by making 2 at the devilish par-3 17th (where the tee was moved up to 177 yards), Fowler ran off 10 consecutive pars to get in at 70. In years past at Quail Hollow, pars wouldn’t do much for a player. But with tougher Bermuda rough and firmer Bermuda greens, pars this week can help a player climb the leaderboard.
“This is not the Quail Hollow we have gotten to know over the last 10 years,” said McIroy, who hovered near the cut line for a spell before scratching out a second 1-over 72 with birdies on two of his last three holes.
McIlroy has four majors already, including the 2012 and 2014 PGAs. He has found the formula that Fowler longs to find. A two-time winner at PGA Tour events at Quail Hollow — Fowler also collected his first victory here — McIlroy brings a lot of confidence into the event. But on Friday, his play lacked for quality and precision. His missed too many fairways, and when hit hit them, his irons weren’t sharp.
McIlroy’s driver was sailing long again, but went awry early on both nines. His first nine, Quail’s back side, included an incredible par out of the gates at the par-5 10th, where he skipped a low third shot uphill off a cart path that skirted a bunker and rolled to the back fringe. It was creative and seemed to energize him. (Roll the YouTube video.)
Had he faced a similar shot before, where a skinny, tarred cart path served as his only option to the green?
“Fortunately not,” McIlroy said with a grin. “I’ve been hitting it a bit better than that.”
He was able to make the turn in 1 under, but then encountered a rough patch, missing greens and making bogeys on four of five holes starting at the par-4 second. He stood on the seventh tee, a par 5, at 4 over, in danger of missing the weekend. But he hit two good shots green-high and got up and down for one birdie, then took an aggressive route for the second straight day at the 346-yard, par-4 eighth, where he ripped driver to within 40 yards of the green. He pitched up and made another short birdie putt. A great look for birdie at his final hole (12 feet) failed to drop, but at least he departed with some momentum.
“I feel a lot better about myself being 2 over for the tournament instead of 4 over,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s quite a big difference.”
It is McIlroy’s belief that there still are some low rounds awaiting on the weekend – perspective-wise, given the harder conditions, that means 66-67, not 61-62 as he shot in the past at Quail. He believes his game is in good enough shape to make some noise the next two days.
As for Fowler, he’s sticking to his plan, hoping that this week is one where steady can win the race. He has daydreamed before about that day when he wins a major, a day many believe is coming. But a player can only do that so much.
“You don’t want to get ahead of yourself,” Fowler said. “This week I’m going to have a good chance. The thing is, I need to manage that properly.
“With the way I’ve been playing (top 5s in three of his last six starts), how I’m swinging this week and last week going into it, I know I can win this week. That’s already set. It’s more so between the ears making sure I make the right decisions and don’t get ahead of myself. If we do that, it will be all right.”