Rain Pounds At PGA Championship

Friday, August 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The course is wet, the weather is humid and the pace of play is slow. On top of that, Tiger Woods is on his game.

All in all, this is not exactly a dream week for the rest of the field at the 82nd PGA Championship.

Woods shot a 6-under-par 66 to share the lead with Scott Dunlap after Thursday's lengthy opening day at Valhalla Golf Club.

Slow play forced a suspension of play as darkness fell on 18 players still on the course.

To make matters worse, the course was hit with more than 3 inches of rain overnight. The conditions forced PGA officials to delay the start of Friday's play by an hour.

That means that the second round probably will not be completed Friday and those still on the course will have to finish their rounds Saturday morning before the cut can be made and the third round can get under way.

Course workers were out early Friday, spreading wood chips over the wettest of the high-traffic areas. Mud had flowed across the walkways and cartpaths and the huge mounds surrounding the 18th green had become as slippery as ski slopes.

As the first players teed off in the second round, helicopters hovered overhead.

The forecast was for gradually clearing skies and cooler temperatures after a week of high heat and humidity. But those teeing off in the morning played in a dense mist.

Former British Open champion Tom Lehman, still recovering from knee surgery, withdrew before starting his second round. He struggled to an 82 in the opening round, playing the last three holes at 7 over par.

The conditions and the delays got to Chris Perry. Perry was 3 under through his first 10 holes Thursday, but had to wait until Friday morning to play his final three holes.

After a bogey at the 17th, Perry found more trouble at the par-5 18th. Unhappy with his fourth shot from a greenside bunker, he slammed his sand wedge into his bag and almost snapped it.

After two-putting for bogey, he tossed his putter to his caddie. He left the scoring tent after signing his scorecard for a 72 and then began loudly cursing while kicking his golf bag.

Perry led by a shot heading to the 72nd hole last week at the Buick Open but bogeyed to lose by a stroke to Rocco Mediate.

Woods, not scheduled to tee off in the second round until midafternoon, was playing with Jack Nicklaus and reigning Masters winner Vijay Singh. Woods had seven birdies, including four in a row and five in the span of six holes, Thursday to continue his onslaught in golf's premier events.

``There is no stopping him,'' said Dunlap, who has won tournaments in Canada, South Africa, Argentina and Peru — but none on the PGA Tour.

Woods is seeking his fourth victory in the last five major championships. He's trying to become the first player to win consecutive PGA titles since Denny Shute in 1936 and 1937. He could also become the first person to win three Grand Slam events in the same year since Ben Hogan in 1953.

Since shooting a 75 and a 72 in the first two rounds of the Masters, Woods has played 11 rounds at 44 under in the major championships.

Nicklaus, playing his first competitive round with Woods, was amazed by what he saw.

``He shot the easiest 66 today, and he missed half a dozen opportunities,'' said Nicklaus, who labored in the heat for a 77. ``Phenomenal control, phenomenal concentration. That was a real treat to watch.''

For his part, Dunlap — set to tee off early in the afternoon in Friday's second round — enjoyed his moment in the spotlight. He has never finished higher than third in 108 tour events, and his best effort in the majors is a tie for 10th at last year's British Open.

Despite missing as many cuts (5) as he's made in major championships, Dunlap said there's always hope of an upset win.

``Hey, you never know when your first one is going to be,'' Dunlap said.

The 37-year-old Pittsburgh native had never shot lower in a major championship than the 68 he shot in the opening round of the British Open last month. But he followed that with a 78 and missed the cut.

In his only previous PGA appearance, last year at Medinah, Dunlap tied for 68th, 21 shots behind Woods.

Two shots back after 68s were Northern Ireland's Darren Clark and 1997 PGA champion Davis Love III.

J.P. Hayes, Fred Funk, Stephen Ames and Edward Fryatt — who only made it into the field as an alternate for the injured Steve Elkington — each shot 69.

Ernie Els, second in each of the year's first three majors, had a 74. So did Colin Montgomerie, seeking to win his first major in 38 tries.

One of those stuck on the course when play was suspended, Jonathan Kaye, jumped onto the leaderboard with a birdie at the 17th to get to 3 under.