Jay Haas arrived at Medinah Country Club Sunday and played four practice rounds before the start of the 81st PGA Championship. He said he was bored stiff after 72 holes of preparation, but today he was getting goose bumps by the minute after taking the second-round lead in the final major of the year.
With his 18-year-old son Jay Jr., a 1-handicapper himself, carrying his bag and helping his father read putts and gauge distances, Haas came in with a 67 despite a bogey on No. 18. That gave him a 36-hole total of 9-under 135 and a one-shot lead over Canadian left-hander Mike Weir, who bogeyed two of his last three holes.
"It would mean a great deal" to win here this week, said Haas, 45, who turned pro in 1976. "I've played a long time out here without a major. I'm disappointed it hasn't happened. I'm not devastated by it, but we all think we can do better, no matter what."
Tiger Woods made four birdies in his first five holes. By day's end, Woods was looming large in the hunt for his second major championship after a splendid 67 that carried him within two shots of the lead at 137.
Woods played his final six holes in a drenching rain on an afternoon when his putting stroke seemed to come alive after a long dormant stretch in major championship play this year. He birdied the first three, giving him five in a row after he finished the first round with birdies at 17 and 18. As usual, he was brimming with confidence over his chances for the weekend.
"I got off to a good start today -- basically the start I wanted to have -- and I got myself back in contention," he said. "The key is to keep giving yourself good chances. I've won four tournaments this year. You're not going to win every time, but overall I'm playing pretty good."
First-round leader Sergio Garcia, 19, of Spain, was not quite as upbeat after missing a half-dozen makable birdie putts inside 12 feet today. That was the major difference in the long-hitting prodigy's opening-round 66 and the 1-over 73 he handed in shortly before Woods began in the early afternoon. Garcia finished at 5-under 139, a shot behind England's Lee Westwood at 68 -- 138.
After playing his first 31 holes bogey-free and 7 under, Garcia bogeyed the 14th and 15th and was in a four-way tie for sixth place in a group that also included one of his playing partners, Hale Irwin. A three-time U.S. Open champion, including his last here in 1990, Irwin, 54, is trying to become the oldest major champion in history.
Also at 5 under was journeyman pro Skip Kendall. He birdied three of his first four holes, posted a 30 on the front nine and set the Medinah No. 3 competitive course record with a 7-under 65, a shot better than Garcia's first round, to get back in contention over the final 36 holes.
Haas missed the cut last week at the Greater Hartford Open, but today he was solid for a second straight day. He missed only two fairways on a course that demands accuracy off the tee to rather expansive fairways, especially with the rain making the rough difficult to escape.
He opened with a 15-foot birdie putt at the 388-yard No. 1, had a four-footer at the 530-yard fifth and hit a 7-iron within six feet -- and made that putt, too. Fifteen-footers at the 10th and 13th got him to 9 under, and at the 389-yard 15th, Haas sank a wildly breaking putt.
His second missed fairway came at the 18th, and his 6-iron second shot missed the final green. He chipped up within 10 feet of the flag and barely missed the putt, but was not complaining about his position on the board, or the very good work of his caddie.
"To have Jay out there with me would be unbelievable" if he could win this week, said Haas, who has finished in the top 10 in eight majors and was tied for the 36-hole lead at the '95 Masters before ending tied for third.
"It's a real charge for me. We got a real nice ovation coming up to 17 and I just looked at him and said, `It's pretty neat, isn't it?' And he had a big grin on his face. That makes it pretty special for me."
Woods was grinning a lot today as well, despite huddling under an umbrella between many shots as he played the final portion of his round. His length clearly has been an obvious advantage on a course that measures 7,401 yards, perhaps even longer in psychic distance because balls are no longer bouncing down soggy, spongy fairways.
At the 388-yard first hole, he hit a wedge within 1 1/2 feet and made the putt. At the 188-yard No. 2 over water, his 7-iron landed and stopped three feet from the hole for another one-putt birdie.
At the 415-yard No. 3, another 7-iron left him with a 15-footer. He made that, then had two putts from 25 feet at the 530-yard No. 5. He used driver and a 5-iron there to give himself an eagle opportunity after making bogey at the fourth with a poor chip.
His last birdie came at the 468-yard No. 12, a hole he reached easily with a driver and an 8-iron to 15 feet. He made an eight-footer to save par at the 452-yard 16th, then after his 18-foot birdie attempt at 18 rolled five feet past the cup, he sank that putt to stay within two shots of Haas.
"I'm proud of the way I played in the conditions -- rain, wind, gusty wind," Woods said. "It wasn't easy out there."