KOHLER, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Japan’s Hiroshi Iwata flirted with the first 62 at a major before settling for a record-tying 63 in the second round of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on Friday.
Needing a birdie at the tricky 18th to etch his name into golf’s history books, Iwata hit an ideal drive but then left his approach 30 yards short of the elevated green from where he got up and down for a par.
That gave the 34-year-old from Miyagi a superb nine-under round in relatively calm conditions at Whistling Straits, and a four-under total of 140 in the fourth and final major championship of the year.
Iwata, who racked up eight birdies, an eagle at the par-five 11th and a bogey, became the 25th player to shoot a 63 at a major.
There have been 27 major rounds of 63, with Greg Norman and Vijay Singh doing it twice each.
Iwata became the second Japanese player to shoot 63 after Isao Aoki (1980 British Open) and the first overall since American Jason Dufner in the second round of the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, New York.
“On the back nine, after number 13, I was thinking that I‘m going to shoot 27,” a smiling Iwata, speaking through an interpreter, told reporters after storming home in seven-under 29.
The Japanese, competing in his first PGA Championship, had eagled the par-five 11th before picking up further shots at the 12th and 13th. He then finished par-birdie-birdie-birdie-par.
“When I came here (to Whistling Straits), I was thinking to just make my golf better and better, and on Sunday maybe I can be in the top-10,” said Iwata, a two-time winner on his home Japan Tour.
He is not a complete stranger to the big time, having contended at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai last November, where he finished one shot out of a playoff.
Iwata was delighted to benefit from much calmer conditions on the challenging links-style layout on Friday after struggling in gusting winds to an opening 77 on Thursday.
“Yesterday the wind was so strong and the greens were really hard (so) that I can’t stop the balls with the wedges,” he said. “I could only make a birdie chance at one time yesterday.”
Asked how his 63 at Whistling Straits matched up with the 62 he had fired in the second round of this year’s Thailand Open in June where he ended up tying for sixth place, Iwata replied with a laugh: “Just one shot different. Nothing else.”
Editing by Andrew Both