CHASKA, Minn. -- Say what you want about Tiger Woods, the man knows what he needs to do to be successful and isn't afraid of changing things.
Case in point, Tiger won, then took a week off to practice prior to each of the season's first three majors.
When the results yielded a tie for sixth in the Masters and U.S. Open and a missed cut in the British Open, Tiger knew that something had to change and that change would come in his pre-tournament preparation.
In the first three majors, he was rusty and his timing suffered. It just didn't make sense that while there were a host of players scoring well on the opening day of the U.S. Open, Tiger stuck to his plan to rely on patience and wait for the field to drift back to him.
Playing now with a reconstructed and healthier left knee, Tiger in the position of having to adjust and readjust not only his swing, but his physical conditioning.
With the marvel of medical science, Tiger could swing again like, well, Tiger, but what was that swing and where was it coming from? I believe that mentally Tiger knew exactly what he wanted to do, it was simply a matter of not having done it in such a long time that the good things felt foreign.
Fast forward to the 2009 PGA Championship here at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Tiger is healthy, focused and playing some of the best golf of this season. Playing to play, rather than to shake off the rust or play into a rhythm, has allowed the competitive juices to flow and the results are evident. Tiger Woods is on the verge of his 15th Major Championship.
HAZELTINE: Make no mistake this is a big, brawny golf course and when the wind came up the personality of this golf course evolved. While it is lovely to look at, there is a variety of looks to this golf course. There is some uphill, some downhill, some turns and of course some length, however the most of the length is in the par-five holes.
There are also some greens that are huge and with the hole locations where they have been so far, you can have a ball on the green and still have 20, 30, 40, 50 feet or more before you can get it to the hole.
The course over the past couple of days has gotten faster and firmer each day and with the forecast for Saturday calling for more sunshine and wind it seems that the PGA of America has gotten it right so far.
VIJAY: The past two days on the golf course, I've followed Vijay Singh for most of his first two rounds while working as a rover for PGA Championship Week on Sirius 209 and XM 146.
Vijay has done a great job of controlling his golf ball, but his putting is still a mystery. In both of his first two rounds, Vijay has rolled his rock 30 times each day; while the number is good, beyond the digits I witnessed a number of opportunities left on the putting green.
If Tiger weren't in the field, it may not be that big a deal, but Tiger is not only in the field but leading it. You don't expect the world's number one player to back up, even a little, so that means those trailing will have to make up ground.
The fastest way to do that is with the putter and now into his mid-to-late 40s, Vijay can tell you all he wants that he's, "the greatest putter in the world," but until he displays it in a major, it's all talk.
The other problem I've seen firsthand from Vijay is with the big stick. After burying a birdie putt on No. 18 (his 9th hole of the day), he spent the next three holes missing the fairway each time and having to scramble just to keep the card clean. You cannot attack this golf course or be aggressive on the play if you are hitting it out of the hay.
THE GROUP: There is an interesting group of players trailing Tiger by four heading into Saturday's play. Singh has the most successful string against Woods and has no fear of the world's No. 1. The question with Vijay is, can he keep it in play off the tee and take advantage of opportunities on the green?
Brendan Jones began Friday tied for 17th, posted a 2-under par 70, which included an eagle 2 on No. 14, and moved up to a second-place tie by the end of the day. He is a mystery man when it comes to head to head encounters with Woods. In round one, he ran off four birdies but then also posted three bogeys. Sloppy is not a good thing around Woods.
Lucas Glover is the defending U.S. Open Champion and is just playing golf again. No more over thinking it, no more stressing over it, no more grinding. Glover is just going to play and so far that method has produced a 36-hole total of 10 birdies, but has also tallied seven bogeys. Still the vision of a recent major championship win is fresh and this so far is the course that Bethpage longed to be in two tries.
Ross Fisher settled into a nice little rhythm during Friday's second round. The Englishman twice, once on each nine holes, ran off strings of three birdies in four holes. However he closed his second round with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 17 & 18 again leading many to wonder if he can close the deal.
Padraig Harrington played his way out of another pairing with the World's Number One by shooting a 1-over par 73 that included a stretch of three straight bogeys on Nos. 11-13, holes that span 606 yards (par 5), 518 yards (par 4) and 248 yards (par 3). Harrington is a grinder but one of the interesting things about the PGA Championship is that it usually allows for all types of players to compete. That is true at this event with one twist; the wind. You can plan out what you want to do with the golf course but when Mother Nature intervenes, you have to dial it back a bit.
FINAL 36: The winner of this event will be the player who plays the best golf over the final 36 holes. The advantage Tiger Woods has over the rest of the field is that on Moving Day at the PGA Championship, he doesn't have to go crazy low to keep his lead. A very pleasant 2-under par 70 would be more than enough to move him one day closer to his 15th Major Championship.
FORECAST: The weather forecast for Chaska, Minnesota on Saturday calls for temps in the 80s with a chance of a scattered thunderstorm in the afternoon with a similar forecast on Sunday.