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August 14, 2009

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Mallinger, Allenby lead early at PGA

THREE straight birdies put John Mallinger atop the leaderboard at the PGA Championship in Chaska, Minnesota.

Mallinger made the turn at three-under yesterday, sharing the lead with Robert Allenby at the year's last major. Paul Goydos, Rory McIlroy and four others were at two-under before the last of the morning groups had even teed off.

Tiger Woods and defending PGA champion Padraig Harrington, paired again after last weekend's entertaining duel at Firestone, were both at one-under. Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink, winners of the year's first three majors, were teeing off together later in the afternoon, as was Phil Mickelson.

Paul Casey, the world's No. 3 player, withdrew because of a rib injury and was replaced by Tim Petrovic.

Woods has won at least one of the majors for four years in a row, but he's running out of time to extend that streak. Then again, he can play Hazeltine National, closing with four straight birdies seven years ago to finish one shot behind winner Rich Beem.

Of course, Hazeltine measured what now seems like a quaint 7,360 yards the last time it hosted the PGA, just seven years ago. Now it's a whopping 7,674 yards, the longest course in major championship history.

Most of Hazeltine National's new length comes on the par fives, three of which are 600 yards or longer. The thinking is that No. 7, at "only" 572 yards, will be the lone par five that players can still reach in two.

But players will find a way to get their birdies, they always do. Mallinger made three straight on Nos. 6, 7 and 8 to move to the top of the leaderboard, and Allenby also birdied the seventh.

Scoring conditions were perfect when the first groups teed off, with clear skies and pleasant temperatures. But the heat and humidity were rising by mid-morning.

Casey, a three-time winner this year on the PGA and European tours, first injured the rib muscle a week before the British Open. He has tried to let it heal with rest and treatment, but had to withdraw early in the first round a week ago at Firestone.

He planned to return to Phoenix and have tests done to make sure the injury really is a pulled muscle and not something more serious, like a cracked rib.

Casey was the third player to withdraw at Hazeltine, following Robert Karlsson and Trevor Immelman.


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