Gary Woodland Sets a Scorching Pace at the Stormy P.G.A. Championship

Woods, McIlroy and Thomas are former world No. 1s, with 19 major victories among them. Neither Woodland nor Kisner is ranked in the world top 25; Kisner is 27th, 17 spots ahead of Woodland.

“I thought our group had plenty of firepower,” Kisner said with a sparkle in his eye.

Kisner and Woodland are both 34 and married, with toddlers. The comparisons end there. Woodland is one of the tour’s longer hitters. His 300-plus-yard drives have left Kisner wondering how he would play if he possessed Woodland’s power. “If I could only hit as far as he could, it would be a different game,” Kisner mused.

At 7,317 yards, Bellerive is a beast of a layout, with two 500-yard par-4s and a 610-yard par-5. But it is free of contrivances. Because of several challenges presented the last few months by Mother Nature, the course is playing soft, which negates the big hitters’ advantage. Also, the greens are receptive, allowing the shorter hitters like Kisner to take aim at the pin with a 4-iron and land the ball as softly as Woodland can with his 7-iron.

“If they were firm,” Kisner said, referring to the greens, “I don’t think I would have a chance.”

The course’s softness bothers master technicians like Spieth, who carded a 66 to move to three under. “You get away with more, like you don’t have to be as precise,” he said. “That’s frustrating in a major championship.”

The leaderboard suggests the course favors no single player but smiles on everyone whose game is major-ready.

“All I know,” Kisner said, “is if I hit it in the fairway and hit it on the green and make the putt, I’m probably going to have a good shot at winning.”

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