The night before the second round, the 94th US PGA Championship was rudely interrupted by a thunderstorm of epic biblical intensity. It sounded as if Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and The Who were jamming at a free concert at Kiawah Island with a spectacular lights show.
It must have been an all-night gig. They were still rocking up a storm yesterday morning. Players arriving for their early tee times were greeted by gale force winds more associated with an Open Championship. Flag poles creaked under the strain and tents flapped like racing schooners in full sail. It was a hooley of Royal Portrush proportions.
This was supposed to be a good omen for Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell who began the day at four under par, just two shots off the lead. But even he got whipped off his feet as crosswind gusts hit 30mph. His trouble began at the 13th when a poor chip ran through the green and came to rest on the edge of the bank that fell off into alligator country in the swampy lake below. There are 600 of the scaly beasts roaming around the Ocean Course. There are signs planted around the course warning spectators: "Please do not feed or disturb the alligators." Frankly, if golf fans are daft enough to offer a man-eating dinosaur a lick of their ice cream, they deserve all that fate has in store for them.
McDowell balanced on the edge of the precipice, chipped back and walked off with a bogey. He stumbled to a four over par 76 to go into the weekend at even par but still in with a chance to challenge tomorrow. "It's one of the toughest set-ups in a major I've seen in a long time," McDowell said. "It's brutal."
There were plenty of fans carrying Budweisers and stogies as they set off with McDowell at 8.40am. By lunchtime, it was rain ponchos and umbrellas. Spectators had to hang on tight to avoid turning this corner of Southern Carolina into a Mary Poppins convention. It wouldn't have been a surprise, either, if Dorothy, Toto and Auntie Ems had flown by in their house. The second round was "Twister Friday" and everyone in the morning groups got picked up, thrown around and chucked backwards in a heap.
Everyone, that is, except 49-year-old Vijay Singh. The 1998 and 2004 US PGA champion breezed in with a three under par 69 to take a four under par score into the weekend. But even he looked weather-beaten. "If you had a golf course like this and asked me to go and play golf in windy conditions, I'd say no. But it is a major and we have to go out there and just struggle the best you can," Singh said. McDowell doffed his cap to Fijian. "Vijay's 69. That's a serious score," he said. "But there will also be carnage out there."
If McDowell wanted a closer insight into what carnage looked like, he should have checked out the scorecard of Doug Wade, a 33-year-old club professional from Ohio. Wade racked up seven bogeys, four double bogeys and two triple bogeys to crawl home with a 21-over-par second round 93, the championship's worst total since the all-time Hall of Shame scores of 94 held jointly by Tom Dolby in 2002 and Gary Campbell in 1977. Wade's first round 83 meant he went back to his pro shop to tell tales of the how he shot 32 over par at the US PGA Championship.
But Wade did not suffer alone. There were bigger names than him who had their pride clipped. There was a 76 from world No 1 Luke Donald. At six over par, that's another major failure. Padraig Harrington also shot 76 to be two over par. His mood suggested he was all but resigned to not making it into Jose-Maria Olazabal's Ryder Cup team. "It was tough in a howling gale when you're putting in crosswinds," Harrington said. There was a 77 from 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, 79 from Justin Rose, and 80s from heralded Americans Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar.
The average score in the first round was a one over par 73.33. By the time the afternoon players had made it to the back nine, it was up to almost six over par at 77.7. Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter were battling to keep their names high up the leaderboard. But it was the sight of Tiger Woods holing putts and throwing his trademark air punch that got everyone's attention as he set about chasing down long-time leader, Sweden's Carl Pettersson. Woods is closing in on that 15th major victory but it was carnage out there for most of the field.
Forget the War on the Shore at the 1991 Ryder Cup here at Kiawah Island. This was more like the siege mentality at the Battle of Carthage in 149 BC.
USPGA early second-round scores
The PGA Championship, Kiawah Island Resort (Ocean), Kiawah Island, South Carolina, US: Early second round scores (US unless stated, par 72):
140 V Singh (Fji) 71 69;
142 J Donaldson (GB) 69 73;
143 A Baddeley (Aus) 68 75; A Scott (Aus) 68 75; B Adams 71 72;
144 P Mickelson 73 71; G McDowell (GB) 68 76;
145 F Molinari (It) 70 75; Z Johnson 72 73; G Fernandez-Castano (Sp) 67 78;
146 K.T. Kim (S Kor) 69 77; S Piercy 68 78; F Jacobson (Swe) 71 75; M Angel Jimenez (Sp) 69 77; M Leishman (Aus) 74 72; K J Choi (S Kor) 69 77; B Van Pelt 73 73; P Harrington (Rep Ire) 70 76;
147 G McNeill 71 76; C Schwartzel (SA) 70 77; A Noren (Swe) 67 80; E Els (SA) 72 75; D Lynn (GB) 73 74; Y.E. Yang (S Kor) 73 74;
148 R Goosen (SA) 73 75; B Watson 73 75; J Rose (GB) 69 79; M Every 72 76; P Lawrie (GB) 73 75; J Walker 73 75; R Beem 72 76; M Hoey (GB) 78 70.