BIRMINGHAM, AUG. 10 -- The punishment only continued in the second round of the PGA Championship today, so the trick was to like it. Or at least, to somehow restrain the urge to drive an iron deep into Shoal Creek's fairways, kick at its hardened greens with a sharp, damaging cleat, or break a few windows in its red brick, pseudo-courtly clubhouse.
Shoal Creek, the par-72 along a ridge of pines, has frankly become the most detested course in golf, its 7,145 yards of wiry rough and brick-like greens inciting some spectacular fits of temper. Only the most forcibly serene players have fared well on it, epitomized by the frozen smile of leader Wayne Grady of Australia, whose 5-under-par 67 was the lowest round of the tournament. His total of 139 gave him a one-stroke lead over Fred Couples and Larry Mize.
Grady's play was nearly immaculate as he made just one bogey, and hit all but two fairways and one green. That was the sort of precision required to score on a course designed by Jack Nicklaus and made almost unplayable in places by severe rough a half-foot long and sun-beaten greens that proved unreadable from the fairway. Even Grady called some of its bounces "a little on the ridiculous side," as good shots were known to bounce six feet in the air and hurtle away, or suddenly stop short.
"If you're playing well, your game will get you through," Grady said. "You've just got to block the other stuff out of your mind."
Grady's greatest asset is an unerring straightness off the tee. Less accurate players demonstrated that to miss the fairway meant automatic bogey, or worse, as the conditions produced some startling turns of events and the average score was a whopping 76.15. Tim Simpson was 4-under for the tournament through 14 holes today, but triple-bogeyed the par-4 15th and went on to a 73 for even-par 144. The grudging progress of Chip Beck and Billy Mayfair was typical, Beck with 70 and Mayfair with a 71, tied at 141.
Mize professed some liking for Shoal Creek after a 68 that included seven birdies to three bogeys. But he also admitted that over the last two rounds, "I could have bitten into the ball a couple of times."
Couples experienced both the worst and best of the course. He was 3 over par for the day and even par for the tournament with a double bogey at the par-4 12th. But he birdied four of the last five holes, homing in irons to leave himself putts of 15 feet or less for a 71.
"If you like the place it makes it easier," Couples said. "But I'm not going to tell you I'm having a ball out there. There's just nothing you can do about it."
It tried the patience of the steadiest of players, not even machine-like Nick Faldo of Britain immune, with a double bogey on the par-3 13th hole on his way to a 75 and 146. "This must be very exciting for you," he said sarcastically to the gallery as he hacked out of one particularly stubborn piece of rough at the par-4 11th hole, and then took another vicious swipe at the ground in revenge. At the 195-yard 13th, he overclubbed with a 5-iron that bounded through the green, left his chip attempt short in the long grass, finally got the ball on the green eight feet away and missed the putt.
With the round, Masters and British Open champion's chances of becoming the first man since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three major championships in one season were considerably lessened. It was the first time he had shot over par in a major since last year's PGA, when he shot a 73 in the second round at Kemper Lakes. It was his worst round in a major since his third round of 77 in the '89 Masters, which he overcame to win.
"I lost it," he said of his renowned patience, which clearly frayed this afternoon. "This is the most frustrating 18. . . . Tomorrow's the big day. I must shoot a good score to give myself a chance."
Defending champion Payne Stewart, playing with Faldo, also took three enraged slashes at the fairway of the 11th hole, 2 over par for the afternoon as he sent a huge chunk of turf flying. But that moment of release seemed to calm him as he birdied two of the next three holes to eventually shoot even par for 143.
"I felt much better after I did that," Stewart said of his tomahawking. "I know it isn't nice for the fans to see, but frustration is frustration, and you just have to release it."
Stewart was tied with three others, including Fuzzy Zoeller, whose 71 didn't make him feel any kindness towards the course either. "This is the hardest damn golf course I have ever played," Zoeller said. "I have a lot of patience. But this place can get on your nerves."
The cut to the low 70 players and ties fell at 7-over 151, 74 players literally surviving.
Seve Ballesteros demise was magnificent, an 83 for a total of 16-over 160. Nicklaus only intended for Shoal Creek to be long and arduous, not diabolical, and he has said the PGA of America's preparation of the course was not what he would have suggested. His intimate knowledge could not help him in the conditions, with a 74 for 152. Mark Calcavecchia departed with a pair of 77s, Curtis Strange with a 76 that was just a slight improvement over his first-round 79. Lee Trevino, the 1984 champion here, was another casualty at 75. There were some determined recoveries. U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin was 8 over through nine holes and in grave danger of missing the cut, but made birdies at the ninth, 10th and 11th for a round of even par and 149. Greg Norman had an eagle-aided 69 to redeem his opening round of 77, and at 2 over par the tournament is well within his long reach. He passed 72 players today. Tom Kite's 71 was good enough to make the cut after an opening 79.
Grady's round was not at all usual, and depended on his accuracy. He is not particularly long, he is a solid putter, and can have a lethal aim with his irons at times, as his 3-iron that hit the flagstick on the par-3, 215-yard 16th hole showed. All of that adds up to a consistent if not very glamorous player who has finished second an apalling 29 times, to four victories. One of those runner-up finishes was to Calcavecchia in a playoff at last year's British Open.
Since Grady was rarely in the troublesome rough, he suffered none of the stomach churns of the rest of the field. His only bogey came at the 451-yard, 12th, where he drove in the rough, hacked a wedge sideways to the fairway, lobbed a sand wedge to 15 feet and missed the putt.
I haven't been in there enough to be really cheesed off," he said. "If I'm in there 15 times tomorrow, I'll probably come in here and tear this place apart."