Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open champion, sent out a dramatic reminder of his quality here in the second round of The Players Championship with a course-record equaling 63 which saw him skipping the field on 15-under.
In 44 years of the PGA Tour’s flagship tournament that some call “the fifth major”, nobody has ever reached the halfway point in fewer shots.
Jason Day also played the first 36 holes in 129 shots on his way to victory two years ago. But as impressive a performance as Simpson’s no doubt was, everybody here at a gobsmacked Stadium Course knew it could, and should, have been so much better.
Indeed, standing on the tee-box of the notorious 17th, that magical number of “59” was being excitedly touted. Simpson – the 32-year-old who has played on two Ryder Cups since his major breakthrough but who has only won once more title since – had birdied the last six holes and could seemingly not miss with the putter. Two more birdies for immortality.
Yet the terrors of 147-yarder, with its “island green” can invade even the most impregnable mindsets and so Simpson became stuck between clubs on the tee. After tortuous consultations with caddie Paul Tesori, Simpson finally settled on the gap wedge but the uncertainty was in evidence throughout his swing and it was clearly coming up short. And there followed the bizarre moment which drew gasps in the galleries.
Simpson’s ball crashed into the wooden panels guarding the front of the green causing it to fly high into the air. Eventually it pitched on the green and for an instant it appeared it might consent to stop. But so it carried on over the back and into the water. The double-bogey reduced his lead from seven to five.
Looking on in the Golf Channel commentary booth, Sir Nick Faldo was as stunned as anyone. “He was so focused in his crazy zone I thought he would do it, [record a 59] but indecision and a poor swing brought him back to earth,” Faldo said.
When he tapped in for his par on the 18th, Simpson still could boast a share of history, joining the Sawgrass 63 club which also includes Fred Couples, Greg Norman and Day. It was the best score of the week by three and Simpson was not about to be morose, as he looked down the galring gap to Charl Schwartzel, Patrick Cantlay and Danny Lee in joint-second.
“It was a lot of fun. Everything was working today. When that long putt on the 15th went in, I just started leaving,” Simpson said. “On the 17th the wind seemed to be changing about and I took the wrong club, but honestly I felt pretty good over it. I tried to smash it and pushed it. It did feel bad walking off the green but I just had to remind myself about all the positives. I’ll have no problem blocking out what happened on the 17th.”
It is still a commanding advantage but things can – and often do – change awfully quickly on Pete Dye’s wicked creation. In truth, this was as benign as this layout is ever likely to get. Tiger Woods shot a 71 to stand on one-under and revealed afterwards that the ball was traveling a club further than normal. “It’s so hot out there,” Woods said. “It’s really flying and the greens are actually holding.”
Day concurred and on eight-under after a 67 the Australian could even be classed as the biggest threat to Simpson. The ominous news for his rivals is that the resurgent Australian, who won here two years ago, believes his form is sharper than last week, when he prevailed in Charlotte. Day has made no secret of his ambition to return to world No 1 as soon as possible
“I’m hitting it better that at the Wells Fargo, which is nice,” Day said. “And when have a goal of trying to reach the top of the mountain, that usually motivates me to do everything I can to win tournaments.”
Ian Poulter is the leading Englishman on five-under after a 69, while Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood are both on four-under after a 72 and 71 respectively. Rory McIlroy also visited the water on the 17th and that double-bogey meant he missed the cut.
Watch the Players Championship on Sky Sports from 1.30pm on Saturday
Thank you and good night
Final filing from myself today, thank you for your company over the last eight hours.
Rory’s unhappy Friday ends with him picking his way out of the trees at 18 to try and salvage a par at +1 and missing the cut. Justin Thomas at -2 has left a chipped third well short leaving him sweating on the cut. Spieth runs his third, a putt, well past and also looks like he’s going to drop from -2 to -1 and bring all the other -1’s back into tomorrow’s play.
And that’s exactly what does happen. Spieth and Thomas both miss again, go back to -1, and change the cut.
Webb Simpson finishes the day five clear and says: “I got a great start with an eagle at two. On the greens, everything looked good to me, I felt like I would make putts I don’t normally make. Seventeen was a bummer, I blocked it a little bit. I tried to focus on the numbers, I backed off a couple of times because of the wind, I was pushing it a bit with that club. Other than that it’s been a great confidence builder for me. I won’t change anything for tomorrow.”
Right people, the end is near on day two, the night tube is calling, the eighteenth approaches for the final few groups.
Justin Thomas needs a par, hits a three wood to the middle of the fairway. Jordan Spieth screams as he unleashes his way right, shouting “SIT. DOWN.” as it comes out of the sky behind the trees.
The cut is changing again as Wes Bryan, at -2, is in the water at 17 and will be going back to -1 and bringing everybody there back in with him.
On the green
From the drop zone McIlroy has kept things interesting by leaving a very short putt for just a bogey. That would leave him needing a birdie at the last to make the cut.
Elsewhere Alex Noren rolls in from range at 15 to go -8. Dustin Johnson is at 18 on -7, rolls in to maintain that. Gained a shot on his overnight score, but no big movement. Bubba Watson finishes on -5.
Back at the nightmarish 17, Spieth’s long ranger for a birdie stays up but he’ll par and stay two under. Thomas has got his birdie, moves to -2, which is big for the cut as everybody on -1 is now out again. McIlroy misses his putt, double bogey for him, and that really is it.
McIlroy at 17
It’s the turn of our threecut dwellers – Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, -to tackle 17.
McIlroy goes first, on -1, comes up short, into the drink.
Thomas second, -1, nails it, might actually get a birdie.
Spieth third, -2, dry land.
McIlroy hanging in there
Right here we go, Rory McIlroy’s round in Last Chance Saloon. Eagle putt never really threatened, but he has birdied 16 so is back to -1 which may yet be the cutline. Spieth misses his birdie putt so stays on -2.
Adam Scott has just plonked his tee shot to within eight feet at 17, best shot I’ve seen there today. He has 14 birdies there since 2003, more than anybody else. Playing partner Si Woo Kim smacks a nine iron into the water.
Koepka is having a nightmare at 17. His third shot from the drop zone has also gone in the water, so he’s playing a fifth from out there now. He was -8 when he came in. Third time’s the charm as this one stays on dry land, but he’s dropping plenty of shots here.
Spieth, -2 approaching the green at 16, pulls it left. McIlroy, needing a birdie, goes to the middle of the green and will have an eagle putt. Dustin Johnson misses a birdie putt at 17 by a fraction.
No course record, more water further back
All the talk overnight was about Dustin Johnson, but he is stubbornly stuck on -7 after another birdie opportunity goes begging at 16.
Simpson leaves himself four and a half feet for par, and -9 on the day. He’s missed the course record putt from long range. A magnificent round of 63 leaves him -15 and five clear.
Justin Rose pars 17 to remain -4. Koepka won’t be doing likewise, he follows the Simpson route into the water off the tee, placing his -6 for the day and -8 for the week in jeopardy.
Simpson has crunched his tee shot down 18 so still a chance to break the course record, and even if he doesn’t it looks like he’s going into the clubhouse with a five shot lead. Could be worse.
McIlroy got his birdie at 14 to go to even, approach to 15 isn’t bad, cut back to -1 now, in with a chance.
Danny Lee finishes with a 66, -10, we’ve rather ignored that which I apologise for. It’s late.
Ian Poulter’s (-5) turn to take on 17 – dry. Good shot. Justin Rose (-4) – also dry.
Life in the drop zone
Simpson goes for the drop zone rather than another from the tee, and he’s actually only six inches away from being in the pond again. It stays dry this time, and he’ll have a tricky putt to save just a bogey. Double bogey and he’s back on just equaling course record, rather than smashing it.
Golf is happening elsewhere. Spieth is close with his approach shot at 14 and could pick up a shot there. McIlroy likewise.
Back to Simpson’s search for a face-saving, record-preserving bogey. Nah. Misses right. Two shots gone, back to -9 for the day. What else is on?
Simpson’s in the water
Simpson is currently two inside the course record of -9, with two to play. One of those is, of course, the island hole at 17, which has only claimed 11 balls into the water today and doesn’t want to be claiming a twelfth right now thank you very much.
Ohhhhhhh my. It’s like when the sledge falls apart on Cool Runnings.
He spent a long, long time assessing, chatting and wondering. It’s a thick connection that almost goes in the water at the front of the green, bounces off the wooden dock, flies up in the air, goes all the way over the green and sploshes into the drink on the other side.
Six birdies in a row
Right, Simpson at 16. He’s 50 feet away, off the green to the left, with a putter in his hand. If he makes this as well you can take me now I have seen it all.
Not bad you know, got it to within six feet and he’ll have that for another birdie, potentially -11 for the day, -17 for the championship, seven clear approaching the end of day two.
While we wait to see what happens I can tell you McIlroy is now +1 after a bogey at 13 and you have to think that’s about it for his interests in this tournament. Spieth, who’s spent the day clawing his way back in, pulls his par putt at 13 so has three putted, bogeyed and gone back to the cutline.
Howell III makes a par at 16 to stay -9.
Simpson, stifling a yawn, makes a sixth birdie in a row for the first time in his career and does indeed go to -17.
He’s actually bored by it now.
Dustin Johnson, up and down like a bride’s nightie, is on his way back from his high of -8 with a bogie at 14 to go to -7. Danny Lee is going the other way, eagle at 16 to go -9.
Simpson at 16 is going for it, hybrid club with his second shot to the green. Water to the right so aiming left (no flies on me). Maybe over-thought it, too far left, off the green this time. Probably chip it straight in anyway.
Justin Thomas birdies at 13, Jordan Spieth does not.
Time running out on Rory
No eagle for Rory at 12, but a birdie to come back to level. The cut is fast approaching -2. Spieth is at -2 on 12 but misses his birdie putt to eat further into the scorecard.
Simpson at 16 has, naturally, driven straight down the middle and will be approaching the green in two A-GAIN.
Alex Noren, -6 approaching the green at 11, leaves a 15-footer for birdie.
Jordan Spieth is -5 for the day, -3 for the tournament, that might be about to get better at 13 as his tee shot is certainly puttable.
McIlroy and Johnson make move
Ok, into the final two hours of our live coverage from day two at the Players Championship in Florida.
McIlroy has done nothing all day, and is missing the cut as it stands at +1, but suddenly has an eagle chance at 12 after a superb tee shot.
Dustin Johnson is also making a move after a quiet front nine, he’s suddenly birdied three in a row to go to -8.
Nobody can touch Simpson though, already holed 300-feet worth of putts in a round and a bit and now has one from off the green at 15… If it had missed, it would have gone a mile by, but it’s his day, so it sinks, five birdies in a row, down to -16 now, and already rendering my screenshot out of date. Six clear.
I‘ve decided that the fans at 12 are the worst. Si-Woo Kim, attempting to be the first player ever to retain this trophy, hits his drive to a cry of “Si-Woo later ball”. The man’s friend loves it, and repeats “see you later ball”, and we’re then treated to an explanation between the two of why the first one was actually a pun and therefore ‘funnier’. I’m going to watch the rest on mute I think. Oh yeh, Kim is -6 and has gone left.
Keegan Bradley is also now -6 after an impressive long ranger for two at 17.
Danny Lee goes one better to -7 with his own hail Mary attempt at 16.
McIlroy at 11 misses again, par, but he needs birdies if he’s interested in being around tomorrow.
John Huh looked like he would be on -2 with two to play, but he’s gone in the water at 17 so perhaps not.
Simpson five clear
Webb Simpson at 14 just isn’t missing. He’s now successfully curled one in from 15 feet out, and he’s -15 and five clear now. Sensational stuff, -9 today.
Koepka, at 12, overshot the green with his drive and has taken three to get down from there. Still a par, still -7.
Let’s go Gators
Tommy Fleetwood (-3) gets a nasty bounce at 13 and nearly goes in the water, having survived by inches he chips back up to within four feet and has that for birdie which… he…. … rolls past the hole. Bad miss. Par, missed opportunity.
Koepka lets rip with a lot of club at 12 to a cry of “let’s go Gators” which is right up there in the stupidity stakes with the earlier “light the candle” some absolute weapon shouted at Tiger Woods. Ball goes way beyond the green but he’s going alright on -7.
What’s Simpson got for us at 14? Second approach shot from the perfect tee shot, nine iron… it’s not that close, but in this form it’s a big chance to go to -15.
Simpson four clear
Simpson is now -8 for the day and pushing the course record after a birdie at 13. He’s -14 for the tournament and disappearing over the horizon. Four clear.
A birdie for Dustin Johnson at 11 who’s gone to -8, back to -5 and is currently -6. Spieth remains on the cutline at -1 with a birdie at ten.
Another bogey for McIlroy at ten moves him to +1 and with the projected cut now nudging towards -2 it looks like he’ll be kicking his heels this weekend – or, you know, flying around on private jets and that. Eight holes to turn it around.
Using all the course
Dustin Johnson has come within about six inches of planting his approach to 11 in the water. Chips out of the rough to within four feet.
Watson, who’s determined to use every inch of this golf course, comes out of the bunker on the same hole to within range of a birdie.
At 17, Sweden’s David Lingmerth (+1) seemed certain to find the water at the island hole only for it to roll all the way down the access slope and stay dry. Water in the way of his stance, he tries to putt it all the way back up and makes it about half way.
We’ll stay with him, it’s turning into a bit of an odyssey. He’s chipping now, this his third shot. Brilliant attempt, gets within two feet, might save a bogey.
Simpson is on an absolute mission. Now at -13, three shot advantage at the top, rolling in from off the green at 12.
Emiliano Grillo (Argentina) holes from one side of the green to the other at 17 (his eighth) to move to -5.
Round the grounds
We’ve been away faffing about with some putting practice. So, as Kelly Clarkson would say, since you’ve been gone…
McIlroy, +1, plenty of work to do just to be around at the weekend, hits a long approach to the back of the green on nine. From three quarters of a mile away he leaves himself a two footer to bring a shot back.
Simpson birdies, again, at 11 to go two clear at -12. Charles Howell birdies the second (his eleventh) to go -9.
Dustin Johnson off the green at ten, gets to within three feet as he attempts to arrest a recent decline. Watson misses a put for birdie at the same hole, stays on -4.
Spieth birdies nine, now level par for the championship.
Johnson drops another shot
Spieth managed to rescue a par to stay level for the tournament, projected cut -1. No par for Rory, he’s also level.
Dustin clips a tree at nine trying to recover from a bunker but still finds the green. If you’ve ever had a round at the Arnold Palmer Putting Centre in Cleethorpes, you’ll be familiar with this sort of nonsense.
John Huh, playing 12, eagles to come onto the cut mark at -1.
We conclude this latest round up with an eagle for Watson and a birdie for Koepka at nine. Johnson can’t follow them, and will have to come seven feet back just for a par. Missed again, three bogeys in four holes. Back to -5.
First sign of madness
“Jordan really. Get to the green somehow. Oh that is not a good break.” Spieth doing the commentary himself as he makes a bit of a horlicks of his approach at seven, which ends up in a greenside bunker.
Bubba Watson’s latest drive at eight is met by an enormous call of “THERE IT IS BUBBAAAAAAA” from a rare deep water moron at the side of the tee. Dustin gets “BEEEEEEEE THE BALLLLLL” which I’m sure he’s delighted about as his tee shot pulls left and into the crowd. No “dilly dilly” yet, so grateful for small mercies there.
Rory’s another one taking a roundabout way to the seventh green, into the water with his first, flirting with it again on his third, then playing a miraculous fourth to try and salvage a par.
Bubba Watson has given up on the idea of putting, chipping in for bogey at seven and then a par at eighth. Bit wild, still -2.
Scott missed that birdie chance at seven. Johnson made his par at eight and stays -6. Derby lead Fulham 1-0. Send cake.
Simpson leads outright
Oooh dear, Dustin now going off to the right at the par three eighth sand will face an awkward up and down from the rough.
No such problems for Webb Simpson meanwhile, brilliantly reading a putt at nine to move out in front by himself at -11.
Adam Scott’s beautiful approach to seven gives him a big chance to move to -6.
And while I’ve been typing that, Johnson plays that tricky second shot well and should be comfortable enough for par.
Johnson taking the Poulter route to victory on the seventh, moving from one bunker to another. Chips out to within five feet, needs it for par. Misses. Waits two days for a bogey and then two come along at once.
A hole ahead on eighth, Justin Rose massively overcooks his tee shot and goes into the deep pothole bunker at the back of the green.
Two other players left without a bogey this week – Noren and Koepka – but the Swede has just rolled one well wide at four to put paid to that.
I like a walkabout
Johnson has now driven into a bunker at seven as cracks start to appear.
The trees spat Poulter’s ball back out into relative safety at the same hole, which was a right touch. He’s sportingly stuck his second shot into a fairway bunker just to keep things nice and fair though. Somehow escapes with a par.
Playing partner Tommy Fleetwood, European number one, birdies to come back to level for the day.
Charles Howell III is playing 17, but started at ten so this is his eighth hole, has moved to -8 and avoided the perilous water hazard there too.
Ring the bell, new joint leader kids. Webb Simpson comes out of a fairway bunker to within range and then rolls the birdie home to make it -10.
Meanwhile, and yes we have notified the presses to hold, Dustin Johnson has bogeyed at last. He drops back to -7 after dropping a shot at the fifth, his first one this week. Amateur.
Noren motoring along nicely
Sweden’s Alex Noren has moved to -7 having joint led overnight at -6.
Poulter, meanwhile, is all over the place. Going for a walkabout in the woods well to the right at seven. I get the impression he hasn’t really regained his composure since screwing a putt at four when he was angered by crowd disturbance during his back swing.
As we approach the halfway point of our coverage this evening, Dustin Johnson pars again to maintain his run without a bogey this week.
Bubba Watson, two bogeys back to back followed by a birdie at five, so he’s just about -3 now.
Poulter drops a shot
Ian Poulter leaves himself too much to do for a par at the fifth, a 20 foot uphill putt which never stood a chance.
Adam Scott, with a putter as long as a marathon of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, misses a birdie chance at the fourth by inches and remains -5.
Spieth has a difficult approach to the same hole, ball in the rough at the edge of a bunker and well below his feet. “Ahhh, too much,” he says. Actually, the distance is good and the aim is only slightly too far right. Wish mine did that when I give them “too much”.
Jason Day says…
No dropped shots today for a 67 and -8, Australian Jason Day says: “There was a moment there mid-round where the wind died down, then it picked up again towards the end. Nice to go through the whole round with no dropped shots. The short game saved me a bit today, it’s been key to the start of this year and how I’ve played. It’s a good start to the year and I have to keep working hard, it’s a process.”
Little (tiny) Johnson wobble
Dustin Johnson rolls his first putt at the fourth past an awkward distance but returns well enough for a par. He remains -8 and tied for fifth.
We have 80 players at -1 or better, which is the projected cut.
Poulter not happy
Rolling a putt wide at the fourth, England’s Ian Poulter turns to somebody in the crowd and gives it: “That’s nice. Thanks very much for that. Well done.”
Back at the second, Spieth has a chance to get back to level already with an eagle putt. Misses by a fraction but he’ll start birdie-birdie and back to +1.
Simpson birdies five to go within a shot of the lead at -9.
Spieth gets the fast start he needs
Jordan Spieth already back from +3 to +2 after a birdie at the first. Three more to go to get to the projected cut line.
Much like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy has managed to hook his way out of trouble off the pine needles at the first and find the green – should par from there. Johnson, meanwhile, eagles at two to go to -8.
Tiger laments missed chances
“They gave us some fairly easy pins, the golf course could be had today. Unfortunately I didn’t make any birdies. I had my chance. I didn’t get off to the greatest of starts, I parred the first three holes on the back nine which were really easy holes. The cut is under par right now, which is frightening.”
Rory begins second round
So here comes Rory McIlroy, 71 yesterday which will be on the cut line if he repeats it this afternoon. Not a good start, he’s gone through the trees and onto the road at the first.
PGA Champion Justin Thomas follows him, but lands on the fairway. Jordan Speith, +3 overnight and already with three missed cuts to his name on this Sawgrass course, creams one straight down the middle.
Lovely boy, loves his mum
Three great tee shots on the second, one from Johnson who’s well placed, and one from Bubba Watson with a giant pink driver and a pair of Mother’s Day shoes the likes of which I can scarcely recall seeing before.
Simpson early move
Not only a nice approach, but an eagle putt from 25 feet from Webb Simpson to quickly jump up to level fourth at -8 moving onto the third.
Dustin Johnson, meanwhile, can’t quite do the same but it’s a gimme for par and he’s still without a bogey yet this week.
Dustin Johnson, another of the overnight leaders, goes slightly left off the tee at the first but plays nicely off the pine needles onto the green and will now have a long putt for birdie – most likely a par.
One of six overnight leaders on -6, Webb Simpson, plays a nice approach shot into the second as his round gets underway. Our own Ian Poulter rolls a potentially tricky little tiddler in at the first to save par and remain two under.
Fowler almost certainly out
Tiger finishes on -1. Fowler, who double bogeyed both 15 and 16, misses a final chance for a birdie at 18 to finish +1 and almost certainly go out just three years after winning the event.
Cantlay in the clubhouse
Patrick Cantlay finishes on -10 which ties Charl Schwartzel for the lead in the clubhouse.
And we’re back
With Jason Day, who made an earlier move to -8, and is now on his final hole of the day rolling a birdie opportunity just wide. Playing partner Sergio Garcia finishes with a birdie and -7.
Tiger, a hole back, lips one out from 30 feet and stays on the cut line of -1.
Rather than watching golf, we’re watching Butch Harman play on the mechanical putting green in the studio. Fate of Rickie Fowler et al will be revealed shortly.
Double double bogey
It is indeed a second consecutive double bogey for Fowler. He’s now +1 with two to play, he’s two off the projected cut line.
Mickelson also misses for par to move to +6, he’s going home too.
This is not looking good for Fowler who needs to be level at worst through the last three holes (actually seven, eight and nine) to stand a chance of making the cut, and having selected a driver with a head nearly as big as his he looks like he might have stuck it in the water.
Water it is, another drop. Looks like he can make other plans for the weekend.
Better this time
Tarzan hits second attempt at a tee shot straight down the middle and approaches the green well with his fourth shot. One long putt to save a bogey. Doesn’t make it, drops two, back to the projected cut line at -1.
We’re shaking the tree now
Latest idea is for a group of people to try and shake the tree and get the ball to fall out. No chance. Great fun though.
Fowler now being driven back to the tee for another go. Don’t do that again.
What came first?
Fowler’s ball has not only gone into the trees, it’s got stuck up a tree. Golfers, marshals and spectators are now hovering round debating whether it’s a ball or a bird’s egg they can see.
Rules say that even if people saw it go into the tree, it has to be identified as his ball, otherwise he could just be making it all up. You’d need a set of scaffolding to get up there and check so I’m not sure where we go from here.
Binoculars. That’s where we go from here.
Schwartzel joins leaders
Charl Schwartzel, who we’re not allowed to see yet, has joined Cantlay on -10 for a joint lead. He’s -6 for the day playing through 16.
The ones we are allowed to watch are getting adventurous. Fowler following Garcia out into the wilds at six.
Jason Day has a putt to move to -9 which… he… comes up short on, and now has a little awkward one for par.
Mickelson’s run of birdies ends at three, and now +6. Sergio has disappeared off to the right off the tee at the sixth again, manages to get out of the trees he lands in only for it to fly into a new clutch of trees somewhere else. Fowler birdies again, now -3.
Chesson Hadley dropped three shots on the final two holes to come back to -9, finishing with a round of 69. Good news for Patrick Cantlay who is still out on the course and holds the lead outright at -10.
Day making a move
While Sergio’s been paddling, Jason Day is third and inches at the fifth and will now surely move to -8 which is two off the lead. Garcia uses all the hole, but does restrict the damage with ‘just’ a bogey.
Not the only one
Sergio looks like a man whose dog has been run over, literally as soon as the ball left his club face off the tee at the fifth. Good reason too, it’s gone way off to the right and sploshed straight into the water. That eagle at two feels a long time ago already. Hold the line caller and I’ll tell you what Plan B is…
Mickelson has birdied the second, third and now fourth. The comeback is on. Fowler also down in three at four to go -2. Tiger, still lighting that candle, holds par.
It was all going so well
Leader Hadley’s gone in the water and dropped two shots. Comes back to -10 and is now tied for the lead with Cantlay.
Tiger back on the cut line
Over at the third, Tiger makes one from 20 feet for a birdie to go to -1. Fowler misses from slightly closer in to par and stay the same.
Mickelson, who’s been mostly playing like me, also birdies but then leaks one off to the right on the fourth and he’s wandering off into the woods again. Tiger’s tee shot is met with an ear-splitting cry of “light the candle” from somebody we’re going to go out on a limb and assume is a moron.
Should have pointed out, we’ll publish your Tweets if they’re intelligent/funny/horrifically abusive. I’m @loftforwords.
Hadley extends lead
Chesson Hadley, extending his lead to two shots on -12 with a birdie at 16. He’s -6 for the day and two ahead of Patrick Cantlay who is -4 for the day coming through 12. If it feels like we’re focusing on the earlier groups while great things are going on up front – we are, but we’re working with what we’ve got coverage wise.
Unhappier times at the second.
Tiger, who teed off to three “woooos” and one “beauty”, couldn’t quite chip out of the world’s smallest, deepest bunker onto the green. He putted anyway, missed right, settled for par. Rickie Fowler went one better to move to -1, which is the projected cut at the moment.
Playing partner Phil Mickelson, already +9, clearly looking forward to the weekend off. He missed the green right, then chipped all the way through and missed it right. Still recovered for a birdie though to go to +8.
Generous hole this one – five eagles and 27 birdies already today. Basically a buffet.
Sergio has indeed rolled in from close range for an eagle to go to -6. Day, having missed the green entirely, chipped to within a foot and birdied to join him. Henrik Stenson, who bunkered with his second, also holds his nerve from six feet to go to -6.
Mixed start for Sergio
Having dropped a shot at the first to go back to -4, Garcia has just landed his second shot at the second within about three feet for an eagle chance. Jason Day, -5, has gone slightly left of the green.
Rickie Fowler, level, has missed a long range chance for a birdie at the first. Playing partner Tiger Woods did likewise from almost the same spot. Both saved par.
Hello, good afternoon, and welcome
Eight hours of live golf they said. Well who needs a Friday night out at the end of a long week anyway?
Yes, that’s right, we’re here until midnight with live shot by shot, hole by hole, birdie by birdie coverage of day two of The Players Championship from Sawgrass in Florida where I’m reliably informed the humidity is at 98%. Not a weather guy, but that feels quite high.
Six way tie for the lead overnight – Dustin Johnson the big dog in the pack but Webb Simpson, Chesson Hadley, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay and Sweden’s Alex Noren (as he will be referred to throughout) all joined him on -6.
There has been movement at the top already today. American (actually, they’re all American unless we say otherwise, easier that way) Chesson Hadley has opened up a two shot lead, -10 playing through 14 as I write this. Matt ‘Koooooch’ Kuchar, Charl Schwartzel (South Africa) and Patrick Cantlay are tied second on -9, and Jon Rahm (Spain) and Steve Stricker have joined the gang on -6.
The set up
Dustin Johnson signaled his intention to maintain his status as world number one with an opening 66 in the Players Championship at Sawgrass.
Johnson’s position at the top of the rankings, which he has held since February last year, is under threat from Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose this week.
But the former US Open champion is not about to make life easy for his rivals and carded six birdies in an error-free first round to share the lead with compatriots Webb Simpson, Chesson Hadley, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Cantlay and Sweden’s Alex Noren.
Rose and Rahm are just two shots off the lead after rounds of 68, but Thomas could only manage a one-over-par 73 and Spieth struggled to a 75 which featured four bogeys, a double bogey and an eagle on the short par-four 12th.
“I haven’t had the best record here but it’s a golf course that I like, I enjoy playing it and I feel like I should play well here,” Johnson said after his lowest score and first bogey-free round at Sawgrass in 31 attempts.
“My expectation is the same for every tournament, I want to play well and put myself in a position to have a chance to win on Sunday.”
Asked about the world ranking situation, Johnson added in a post-round interview broadcast on the PGA Tour’s Twitter account: “Justin [Thomas] has been pretty close to me for a while. Every week I know there’s a chance that someone can pass me.
“I definitely want to stay there, but if someone passes me it’s not going to change anything, I’m still going to go back the next week and try to get it back. It was a big deal to get there and it’s a big deal to stay there. I like being number one so I want to stay there.”
Rose, who was playing alongside Tommy Fleetwood (69) and Ian Poulter (70) in an all-English group, was frustrated not to make more of a brilliant beginning to his round.
The Olympic champion started on the 10th and followed a birdie on the 11th by holing out from 96 yards for an eagle on the 12th, but then mixed three bogeys with four birdies.
“It was obviously a dream start but I didn’t make much of it from that moment on,” Rose told Sky Sports. “The 12th is a fun little hole, a risk-reward hole, and normally if you make eagle you think you’re going to have a crack at the green.
“But I liked where the pin was today, there’s a really tough slope that’s about six, eight feet to the right of the pin that makes chipping to that pin incredibly difficult and very inviting for a wedge shot.
“And I knew that I could put the wedge in there just a little bit to the right of the pin and let it spin down. As it happened I hit my wedge straight at it and it took one bounce, checked and went in.”
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