PGA Tour players struggling at Cognizant Classic thanks to difficult conditions

One day after PGA National yielded record scoring thanks to picture-perfect conditions, the wind picked up, creating all sorts of problems for the field at the Cognizant Classic.

Players are battling through 20-to-25 mile-per-hour wind gusts—not a rarity in South Florida, but challenging, nonetheless.

Especially with water lurking on seemingly every hole, a solidly struck shot can hit a gust of wind and drop right into the penalty area.

No wonder why the scoring average on Friday is almost three strokes higher than that seen during Thursday’s opening round.

“[Friday] definitely played a bit more windy than [Thursday] and was blowing since hole one—just a lot more wind,” said Kevin Yu, who has carded rounds of 66 and 67 on the par-71 layout.

Yu sits at 9-under midway through the championship.

“It played tough out there today,” added Tom Kim, who shot a pair of 3-under 68s over the first two rounds.

Tom Kim, PGA Tour, The Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

Tom Kim.
Photo by Brennan Asplen/Getty Images

“Obviously, this course is very penalizing, and when the wind is up like this, you’ve got to play really, really solid.”

Plenty of pins are sitting close to the water, such as the par-3 5th and the par-3 15th.

The cup on the 5th is placed on the left side, adjacent to the water, forcing players to bail out to the right. It has produced 19 bogeys and two double bogeys or worse midway through Friday’s second round, ranking as the fifth hardest hole.

Meanwhile, the 15th is currently the most punishing hole of the tournament, playing 0.44 shots above par. It has yielded only nine birdies during the second round thus far, while 38 players have recorded a bogey or worse. For a hole to measure 180 yards, and rank as the most challenging hole, is quite a rare feat.

But the 15th also marks the beginning of the three-hole stretch at PGA National known as “The Bear Trap,” where water lurks everywhere, and rounds can quickly go south.

“I think mentally you’ve just got to be sharp. You have to be able to commit to what you’re trying to do,” Kim added.

“You’re going to have moments where it feels like it’s gusting this way and it’s not, and I think the big thing for me has been being able to commit to my process and letting it happen.”

Rory McIlroy, PGA Tour, The Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

Rory McIlroy plays a shot from a bunker.
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Friday’s conditions will test the mentality of plenty of players, as good shots will often get punished by a gust that comes up out of nowhere.

Many golfers will likely grow agitated, but unfortunately, it is all out of their control.

And yet, some players, like Rickie Fowler, welcome these conditions.

“I enjoy the wind. You can use it to your advantage sometimes,” Fowler said.

“It does make the course harder. It’s rare to see this place without much wind. [Thursday] morning, I know we weren’t playing, but it was pretty calm. [Thursday] afternoon was still scorable. This will probably be a little above average today.”

Should a player control their ball flight in these conditions, they will have a leg up on the rest of the field. With many players stumbling, those players can climb the leaderboard even quicker.

That is what happened to Fowler, who climbed nearly 64 places on the leaderboard with his 4-under 67 Friday.

“I’m definitely happy with the round. I left a couple out there,” Fowler said of his play. “But looking forward to doing a little bit of work and then hopefully swinging a little bit better this weekend.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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