Sun, May 13, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Simpson ties course record; Woods scrapes through


Justin Thomas hits out of a sand trap on Friday during the second round of the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Photo: EPA

Webb Simpson’s bid for a 59 ended with a ball in the water guarding the famed island green at 17 on Friday, but his record-equaling 63 gave him a five-shot lead at the Players Championship.

Simpson had tournament officials delving into the history books when he birdied six holes in succession from the 11th through 16th holes at TPC Sawgrass, storming to 17-under par and a seven-shot lead.

However, his tee shot at the par-three 17th hit the wooden bulkhead surrounding the green, soaring high into the air before hitting the surface and rolling into the drink.

Simpson played his third shot from the drop zone on his way to a humbling double-bogey five.

It was the only blemish in a course-record-equaling round that included an eagle at the second hole and nine birdies.

Simpson’s 15-under total of 129 equaled the 36-hole tournament record set by Jason Day in 2015 and gave him a five-shot lead over South African Charl Schwartzel (66), New Zealand’s Danny Lee (66) and Patrick Cantlay (68).

“When you’re out there competing in a big tournament, you’re as focused as can be, but then at a certain point, maybe on 13 today, you start just — like a kid, just kind of laughing,” said Simpson, whose run of six straight birdies also matched a tournament record.

There were plenty of marquee names who could not say the same.

Tiger Woods settled for a one-under 71 and then endured an anxious afternoon wait before knowing he had made the cut.

“I just never hit it close enough,” he said. “The course could have been had today. It’s so hot, it’s playing short and the greens are receptive.”

Nevertheless, the 14-time major champion is to play the weekend for the seventh time in eight events he has played this year.

Jordan Spieth (68) and Justin Thomas (70), also squeaked into the weekend, while Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson all missed out.

Simpson, who has not tasted Tour success since capturing a fourth title in late 2014, will not want reminding that in the four times he has made the Players cut, he has never bettered a third-round 74.

“I’m 15-under through two days here, which is a lot lower than I ever would have expected to be,” he said. “So I’m just looking forward to getting some good dinner and some rest and coming out and enjoying it tomorrow.”

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